21 Apr 2023
 | 21 Apr 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal CP.

Southern Hemisphere atmospheric history of carbon monoxide over the late Holocene reconstructed from multiple Antarctic ice archives

Xavier Faïn, David M. Etheridge, Kévin Fourteau, Patricia Martinerie, Cathy M. Trudinger, Rachael H. Rhodes, Nathan J. Chellman, Ray L. Langenfelds, Joseph R. McConnell, Mark A. J. Curran, Edward J. Brook, Thomas Blunier, Grégory Teste, Roberto Grilli, Anthony Lemoine, William T. Sturges, Boris Vannière, Johannes Freitag, and Jérôme Chappellaz

Abstract. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a naturally occurring atmospheric trace gas, a regulated pollutant and one of the main components determining the oxidative capacity of the atmosphere. Evaluating climate-chemical models under different conditions than today and constraining past CO sources requires a reliable record of atmospheric CO mixing ratios ([CO]) since pre-industrial times. Here, we report the first continuous record of atmospheric [CO] for Southern Hemisphere (SH) high latitudes over the past three millennia. Our continuous record is a composite of three high-resolution Antarctic ice core gas records and firn air measurements from seven Antarctic locations. The ice core gas [CO] records were measured by continuous flow analysis (CFA) using an optical-feedback cavity-enhanced absorption spectrometer (OF-CEAS), achieving excellent external precision (2.8–8.8 ppbv, 2σ), and consistently low blanks (ranging from 4.1 ± 1.2 to 7.4 ± 1.4 ppbv), enabling paleo-atmospheric interpretations. Six new firn air [CO] Antarctic datasets collected between 1993 and 2016 CE at the DE08-2, DSSW19K, DSSW20K, South Pole, ABN, and Lock-In sites (and one previously published firn CO dataset at Berkner) were used to reconstruct the atmospheric history of CO from ~1897 CE using inverse modeling that incorporates the influence of gas transport in firn. Excellent consistency was observed between the youngest ice core gas [CO] and the [CO] from the base of the firn, and between the recent firn [CO] and atmospheric [CO] measurements at Mawson station (East Antarctica), yielding a consistent and contiguous record of CO across these different archives. Our Antarctic [CO] record is relatively stable from −835 to 1500 CE with mixing ratios within a 30–45 ppbv range (2σ). There is a ~5 ppbv decrease in [CO] to a minimum at around 1700 CE, during the Little Ice Age. CO mixing ratios then increase over time to reach a maximum of ~54 ppbv by ~1985 CE. Most of the industrial period [CO] growth occurred between about 1940 to 1985 CE, after which there was an overall [CO] decrease, as observed at atmospheric monitoring sites around the world and in Greenland firn air. Our Antarctic ice core gas CO observations differ from previously published records in two key aspects. First, our mixing ratios are significantly lower than reported previously, suggesting previous studies underestimated blank contributions. Second, our new CO record does not show a maximum in the late 1800s. The absence of CO peak around the turn of the century argues against there being a peak in Southern Hemisphere biomass burning at this time, which is in agreement with (i) other paleofire proxies such as ethane or acetylene and (ii) conclusions reached by paleofire modeling. The combined ice core and firn air CO history, spanning −835–1992 CE, extended to the present day by the Mawson atmospheric record, provides a useful benchmark for future atmospheric chemistry modeling studies.

Xavier Faïn et al.

Status: open (until 16 Jun 2023)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on cp-2023-9', Vasilii Petrenko, 12 May 2023 reply
  • RC2: 'Comment on cp-2023-9', Murat Aydin, 01 Jun 2023 reply

Xavier Faïn et al.

Xavier Faïn et al.


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Short summary
We combine [CO] measurements from ice core and firn air collected in Antarctica to produce the first continuous record of atmospheric carbon monoxide mixing ratio ([CO]) for Southern Hemisphere high latitudes over the past three millennia. Our Antarctic [CO] record is relatively stable from −835 to 1500 CE, exhibits a minimum during the Little Ice Age, and then reaches a maximum by ~1985 CE. This record will provide a useful benchmark for future atmospheric chemistry modeling studies.