The N, O, S Isotopes of Oxy-Anions in Ice Cores and Polar Environments

  • Joël SavarinoEmail author
  • Samuel Morin
Part of the Advances in Isotope Geochemistry book series (ADISOTOPE)


For more than 60 years, ice from the polar caps has been used to unravel the evolution of our past climate and environment. Throughout technological improvements, climate researchers have gradually adapted their scientific tools to study the isotope content of the impurities present in it, with the hope to gather more and better information of the Earth’s shattered history. In this chapter, we present an overview of the techniques and studies which use stable isotope analysis to gain new insight. This domain has become so vast that we have limited our presentation to the recent analysis of the two major oxy-anions present in snow: sulfate and nitrate. These species are characteristic of the sulfur and nitrogen cycles. Describing the results obtained on ice without discussing the present atmosphere make little sense as ice is precisely used as a proxy for our past atmosphere. Consequently, beyond the analytical methods to measure the sulfur, nitrogen and oxygen isotopes of sulfate and nitrate, this chapter presents the results obtained at the interface between atmosphere, snow and ice with a focus on polar regions. The current state-of-the-art is presented for these two oxy-anions, including their non-mass-dependent isotope effects.


Oxygen Isotope Sulfur Isotope Sulfur Isotopic Composition Thermal Ionization Mass Spectrometer Cavity Ring Down Spectroscopy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors are grateful to Becky Alexander and Mark Thiemens for their exhaustive review which significantly improved the reading and the clarity of the manuscript. We also thank the Institut National des Sciences de l’Univers (CNRS/INSU) and the LEFE program for their continuous funding support. Equally, the strong support for the logistic operations in the difficult environment of Antarctica and through the funding program 1011 NITEDC of the Institut Polaire Paul Emile Victor (IPEV) is deeply acknowledged. JS acknowledges the support of the French Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR), under grants VOLSOL (NT09_431976) “Forçages climatiques naturels volcanique et solaire” and OPALE (NT09-451281) “Oxidant Production over Antarctica Land and its Export”. And last but not least, JS deeply wants to thank all undergraduates, PhD students and post-docs who spent countless hours to develop, measure and discuss data, always with enthusiasm and motivation. Some of the work presented here would not have been possible without their spirit.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratoire de Glaciologie et Géophysique de l’EnvironnementUniversité Joseph FourierSt Martin d’HèresFrance
  2. 2.Institut National des Sciences de l’Univers, CNRSGrenobleFrance
  3. 3.Centre d’Études de la NeigeMétéo-France, CNRM-GAMESt Martin d’HèresFrance

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