Ice-age atmospheric concentration of nitrous oxide from an Antarctic ice core

Abstract

INCREASING anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are expected to influence the Earth's climate, but the mechanisms for this are not yet fully understood. One way to determine the effect of such gases on climate is to study their atmospheric concentrations during periods of past climate change, such as glacial to interglacial transitions. Previous studies on polar ice cores showed that the concentrations of the greenhouse gases CO2 and CH4 were significantly reduced during the last glacial period relative to Holocene values1–5. But no comparable studies have been reported for nitrous oxide (N2O), which is the next most important greenhouse gas and also affects stratospheric ozone6,7 and, potentially, the oxidative capacity of the troposphere8. Here we report results from Antarctic ice cores, showing that the atmospheric N2O concentration was about 30% lower during the Last Glacial Maximum than during the Holocene epoch. Our data also show that present-day N2O concentrations are unprecedented in the past 45 kyr, and hence provide evidence that recent increases in atmospheric N2O are of anthropogenic origin.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1

    Neftel, A., Oeschger, H., Staffelbach, T. & Stauffer, B. Nature 331, 609–611 (1988).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Barnola, J. M., Raynaud, D., Korotkevich, Y. S. & Lorius, C. Nature 329, 408–414 (1988).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Stauffer, B., Lochbronner, E., Oeschger, H. & Schwander, J. Nature 332, 812–814 (1988).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Raynaud, D., Chappellaz, J., Barnola, J. M., Korotkevich, Y. S. & Lorius, C. Nature 333, 655–657 (1988).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Chappellaz, J., Barnola, J. M., Raynaud, D., Korotkevich, Y. S. & Lorius, C. Nature 345, 127–131 (1990).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Hahn, J. & Crutzen, P. J. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B296, 521–541 (1982).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Crutzen, P. J. Tellus 26, 47–57 (1974).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Staffelbach, T., Neftel, A., Stauffer, B. & Jacob, D. Nature 349, 603–605 (1991).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Ueda, H. T. & Garfield, D. Tech. Rep. 231 (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, Hanover, New Hampshire, 1969).

  10. 10

    Moor, E. & Stauffer, B. J. Glaciol. 30, 358 (1984).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Friedli, H., Moor, E., Oeschger, H., Siegenthaler, U. & Stauffer, B. Geophys. Res. Lett. 11, 1145–1148 (1984).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12

    Friedli, H., Lötscher, H., Oeschger, H., Siegenthaler, U. & Stauffer, B. Nature 324, 237–238 (1986).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Leuenberger, M., Siegenthaler, U. & Langway, C. C. Nature 357, 488–490 (1992).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14

    Friedli, H. & Siegenthaler, U. Tellus B40, 129–239 (1988).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15

    Alyea, F. N. et al. in Trends 91 (eds Boden, T. A., Sepanski, R. J. & Stoss, F. W.) 352–369 (CDIAC, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee, 1991).

    Google Scholar 

  16. 16

    Langway, C. C. & Osada, K. Proc. Symp. Tropospheric Chem. of the Antarctic Region, June 3–6 (Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, 1991).

    Google Scholar 

  17. 17

    Khalil, M. A. K. & Rasmussen, R. A. Ann. Glaciol. 10, 73–79 (1988).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18

    Etheridge, D. M., Pearman, G. I. & de Silva, F. Ann. Glaciol. 10, 28–33 (1988).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19

    Zardini, D., Raynaud, D., Scharffe, D. & Seiler, W. J. atmos. Chem. 8, 189–201 (1989).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20

    Seinfeld, J. H. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics of Air Pollution (Wiley, New York, 1986).

    Google Scholar 

  21. 21

    Wayne, R. P. in Chemistry of the Atmosphere (ed. Wayne, R. P.) 171–178 (Oxford Univ. Press, 1991).

    Google Scholar 

  22. 22

    Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Climate Change—The IPCC Scientific Assessment (eds Houghton, J. T. et al.) (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1990).

  23. 23

    Cicerone, R. J. J. geophys. Res. 94, 18265–18271 (1989).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24

    Duplessy, J. C. et al. Paleoceanography 3, 343–360 (1988).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25

    Adams, J. M., Faure, H., Faure-Denard, L., McGlade, J. M. & Woodward, F. I. Nature 348, 711–714 (1990).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26

    Bolin, B. in The Greenhouse Effect, Climatic Change, and Ecosystems (eds Bolin, B. et al.) 93–156 (Wiley, Chichester, 1986).

    Google Scholar 

  27. 27

    Staffelbach, T., Stauffer, B., Sigg, A. & Oeschger, H. Tellus B43, 91–96 (1991).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28

    Lochbronner, E. thesis, Univ. of Berne (1989).

  29. 29

    Johnson, S., Dansgaard, W., Clausen, H. B. & Langway, C. C. Nature 235, 429–434 (1972).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30

    Labeyrie, L. D., Duplessy, J. C. & Blanc, P. L. Nature 327, 477–482 (1987).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  31. 31

    Isaksen, I. S. A., Ramaswany, V., Rodhe, H. & Wigley, T. M. L. in Climate Change 1992, The Supplementary Report to the IPCC Scientific Assessment, 47–67 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1992).

    Google Scholar 

  32. 32

    Lelieveld, J. & Crutzen, P. J. Nature 355, 339–342 (1992).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  33. 33

    Elkins, J. W. & Rossen, R. in Summary Report 1988, Geophysical Monitoring for Climatic Change (NOAA ERL, Boulder, Colorado, 1988).

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Leuenberger, M., Siegenthaler, U. Ice-age atmospheric concentration of nitrous oxide from an Antarctic ice core. Nature 360, 449–451 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1038/360449a0

Download citation

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.