Articles | Volume 9, issue 4
Research article
03 Jul 2013
Research article |  | 03 Jul 2013

Towards a quasi-complete reconstruction of past atmospheric aerosol load and composition (organic and inorganic) over Europe since 1920 inferred from Alpine ice cores

S. Preunkert and M. Legrand

Abstract. Seasonally resolved chemical ice core records available from the Col du Dôme glacier (4250 m elevation, French Alps), are here used to reconstruct past aerosol load and composition of the free European troposphere from before World War II to present. Available ice core records include inorganic (Na+, Ca2+, NH4+, Cl, NO3, and SO42−) and organic (carboxylates, HCHO, humic-like substances, dissolved organic carbon, water-insoluble organic carbon, and black carbon) compounds and fractions that permit reconstructing the key aerosol components and their changes over the past. It is shown that the atmospheric load of submicron aerosol has been increased by a factor of 3 from the 1921–1951 to 1971–1988 years, mainly as a result of a large increase of sulfate (a factor of 5), ammonium and water-soluble organic aerosol (a factor of 3). Thus, not only growing anthropogenic emissions of sulfur dioxide and ammonia have caused the enhancement of the atmospheric aerosol load but also biogenic emissions producing water-soluble organic aerosol. This unexpected change of biospheric source of organic aerosol after 1950 needs to be considered and further investigated in scenarios dealing with climate forcing by atmospheric aerosol.