What is it about?

Ice cores from high mountain glaciers outside the polar regions are unique archives of the past climate, but their use is often hampered by the lack of reliable dating, especially in the age range of 100 to 500 years. The extremely rare noble-gas isotope Ar-39 is ideally suited for radiometric dating in this age window. Advances in the detection method, atom trap trace analysis, have allowed us to apply Ar-39 dating to an ice core from the Tibetan Plateau, yielding a timescale that covers the past 1,300 years. This work enables the use of further ice cores from polar regions for firn studies or from high mountain glaciers for retrieving climate records of the past millenium and beyond.

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Why is it important?

This is the first ice core dated by the radiometric Ar-39 dating method. This work was made possible thanks to the advancement of the atom trap trace analysis (ATTA) method.

Perspectives

Our team has been working on the atom trap trace analysis (ATTA) method for many years. Dating ice cores with Ar-39 was one of our dreams. It is very satisfying to see this milestone work publishded. As a powerful tool, radiometric Ar-39 dating can help scientists to reveal more secrets from Alpine glaciers and climate of the past.

Wei Jiang
University of Science and Technology of China

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This page is a summary of: A Tibetan ice core covering the past 1,300 years radiometrically dated with 39 Ar, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, September 2022, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2200835119.
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