Water stable isotopic composition on the East Antarctic Plateau : measurements at low temperature of the vapour composition, utilisation as an atmospheric tracer and implication for paleoclimate studies

Abstract : Ice cores enable reconstruction of past climates, from among others water stable isotopic composition (δ18O, δ17O et δD). On the East Antarctic Plateau, very cold temperature and low accumulation provide the longest ice core records (up to 800 000 years) but embrangle the interpretation of isotopic composition. First, reconstructions of temperature variations from ice core water isotopic composition are based on models used to describe the evolution of the isotopic composition of the vapour and of the condensed phase over the entire water cycle. These models have been developed during the last decades and depend upon precise determinations of isotopic fractionation coefficients associated to each phase transition and upon hypotheses to describe cloud microphysics.During the formation of snowflakes at low temperature, two types of isotopic fractionations need to be taken into account: equilibrium fractionation, associated to the vapour to ice phase transition and kinetic fractionation associated to the difference of diffusivity of the different isotopes. At low temperature, determinations of equilibrium fractionation coefficients present important discrepancies and have never been realised for temperature below -40°C. However, mean annual temperature at Dome C is around -54°C reaching -85°C in winter. For the diffusivities of the different isotopes, they have never been measured at temperature below 10°C. All these gaps result in important uncertainties on the link between isotopic composition and temperature, especially for cold and dry conditions such as encountered on the East Antarctic Plateau.Furthermore, because of the very low amount of precipitation, physical processes affecting the isotopic composition of the snow after the deposition of snowflakes can results in an important contribution to the isotopic budget. In order to estimate the impact of the post-deposition processes on the water vapour isotopic composition, it is necessary to characterise the isotopic fractionation at the snow/atmosphere interface for temperature down to -90°C.In order to improve isotopic paleothermometer performances, it is primordial to study processes affecting snow isotopic composition. Toward this goal, my Ph-D has been at the interface between monitoring of processes affecting isotopes, both in laboratory experiments and field studies, and instrumental development to push the limits of water vapour isotopic composition trace detection. On one hand, new developments in optical feedback frequency stabilisation applied for the first time to water isotopic composition monitoring provide performances beyond any commercial instrument and can be used for thorough processes studies. The laser frequency is stabilised by optical feedback from an ultra-stable cavity to the hertz level. Then, the light is injected in high performances cavity with a sensibility of 10-13 cm-1.Hz-1/2. This enables measuring isotopic composition with a precision below the ppm level.On the other hand, laboratory experiments have supported theories about isotopic fractionation associated to the vapour to ice phase transition and to kinetic fractionation linked to the difference of diffusivities of the different isotopes. Finally, these physical models have been collated to field measurements realised at Dome C in Antarctica, which are among the first water vapour and snow isotopic composition measurements realised inland Antarctica. These measurements show how important is the contribution of the sublimation condensation cycles to the snow isotopic composition budget on the East Antarctic Plateau.
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Mathieu Casado. Water stable isotopic composition on the East Antarctic Plateau : measurements at low temperature of the vapour composition, utilisation as an atmospheric tracer and implication for paleoclimate studies. Climatology. Université Paris-Saclay, 2016. English. ⟨NNT : 2016SACLV058⟩. ⟨tel-01409702v2⟩

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