Stable isotope behavior during cave ice formation by water freezing in Scărişoara ice cave, Romania

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stable isotopes, cave ice, Romania, kinetic and equilibrium fractionation, paleoclimate

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Recently, a series of studies have targeted the stable isotopic composition of cave ice as a possible source of paleoclimatic information, but none presented an explanation for the way in which the external climatic signal is transferred to cave ice. While the relation between the stable isotopic composition of precipitation and drip water can be relatively easily determined, a more complex problem arises, i.e., the possible alteration of the primary climatic signal recorded by the oxygen and hydrogen stable isotopes during the freezing of water to form cave ice. Here we report the results of the first detailed investigations of the oxygen and hydrogen stable isotope behavior during the formation of ice in Scărişoara Ice Cave. Samples of ice align on a straight line with a slope lower than 8 in a δ18O-δ2H plot, characteristic for ice formed by the freezing of water. A model is presented for the reconstruction of the initial isotopic composition of water, despite the complexity induced by kinetic effects during early stages of freezing. These results are consistent with ice that forms by the downward freezing of a stagnant pool of water, under kinetic conditions in the initial stages of the process, and isotopic equilibrium thereafter. As ice caves are described in many parts of the world, otherwise poorly represented in ice-based paleoclimatology, the results of this study could open a new direction in paleoclimatic research so that an array of significant paleoclimate data can be developed on the basis of their study.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 116, issue D2, art. D02111