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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 04 Oct 2018

Submitted as: research article | 04 Oct 2018

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This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC).

Stable water isotopes and accumulation rates in the Union Glacier region, West Antarctica over the last 35 years

Kirstin Hoffmann1,2, Francisco Fernandoy3, Hanno Meyer2, Elizabeth R. Thomas4, Marcelo Aliaga3, Dieter Tetzner5, Johannes Freitag6, Thomas Opel7,2, Jorge Arigony-Neto8, Christian Florian Göbel8, Ricardo Jaña9, Delia Rodríguez Oroz10, Rebecca Tuckwell4, Emily Ludlow4, Joseph R. McConnell11, and Christoph Schneider1 Kirstin Hoffmann et al.
  • 1Department of Geography, Humboldt University Berlin, Unter den Linden 6, Berlin, 10099, Germany
  • 2Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Research Unit Potsdam, Telegrafenberg A43, Potsdam, 14473, Germany
  • 3Facultad de Ingeniería, Universidad Nacional Andrés Bello, Viña del Mar, 2531015, Chile
  • 4Ice Dynamics and Paleoclimate, British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Cambridge, CB3 0ET, UK
  • 5Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3EQ, UK
  • 6Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Am Alten Hafen 26, Bremerhaven, 27568, Germany
  • 7Department of Geography, Permafrost Laboratory, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9QJ, UK
  • 8Instituto de Oceanografia, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande, Av. Itália, km 8, CEP 96201900, Rio Grande, RS, Brazil
  • 9Departamento Científico, Instituto Antártico Chileno, Plaza Muñoz Gamero 1055, Punta Arenas, Chile
  • 10Facultad de Ingeniería, Universidad del Desarrollo, Avenida Plaza 680, Santiago, Chile
  • 11Division of Hydrologic Sciences, Desert Research Institute, 2215 Raggio Parkway, Reno, NV 89512, USA

Abstract. West Antarctica is well-known as a region that is highly susceptible to atmospheric and oceanic warming. However, due to the lack of long–term and in–situ meteorological observations little is known about the magnitude of the warming and the meteorological conditions in the region at the intersection between the Antarctic Peninsula (AP), the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) and the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS). Here we present new stable water isotope data (δ18O, δD, d excess) and accumulation rates from firn cores in the Union Glacier (UG) region, located in the Ellsworth Mountains at the northern edge of the WAIS. The firn core stable oxygen isotope composition reveals no statistically significant trend for the period 1980–2014 suggesting that regional changes in near-surface air temperature have been small during the last 35 years. As for stable oxygen isotopes no statistically significant trend has been found for the d excess suggesting overall little change in the main moisture sources and the origin of precipitating air masses for the UG region at least since 1980. Backward trajectory modelling revealed the Weddell Sea sector to be the likely main moisture source region for the study site throughout the year. We found that mean annual δ–values in the UG region are correlated with sea ice concentrations in the northern Weddell Sea, but are not strongly influenced by large-scale modes of climate variability such as the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) and the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Only mean annual d excess values are weakly positively correlated with the SAM.

On average snow accumulation in the UG region amounts to about 0.25 m w.eq. a−1 between 1980 and 2014. Mean annual snow accumulation has slightly decreased since 1980 (−0.001 m w.eq. a−1, p–value = 0.006). However, snow accumulation at UG is neither correlated with sea ice nor with SAM and ENSO confirming that the large increases in snow accumulation observed on the AP and in other coastal regions of Antarctica have not extended inland to the Ellsworth Mountains. We conclude that the UG region – located in the transition zone between the AP, the WAIS and the EAIS – is exhibiting rather East than West Antarctic climate characteristics.

Kirstin Hoffmann et al.
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