Nitrate in Greenland and Antarctic ice cores: a detailed description of post-depositional processes

Röthlisberger, Regine; Hutterli, Manuel A.; Wolff, Eric W.; Mulvaney, Robert; Fischer, Hubertus; Bigler, Matthias; Goto-Azuma, Kumiko; Hansson, Margareta E.; Ruth, Urs; Siggaard-Andersen, Marie-Louise; Steffensen, Jørgen P. (2002). Nitrate in Greenland and Antarctic ice cores: a detailed description of post-depositional processes. Annals of glaciology, 35, pp. 209-216. International Glaciological Society 10.3189/172756402781817220

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A compilation of nitrate (NO3 –) data from Greenland has shown that recent NO3 – concentrations reveal a temperature dependence similar to that seen in Antarctica. Except for sites with very low accumulation rates, lower temperatures tend to lead to higher NO3 – concentrations preserved in the ice. Accumulation rate, which is closely linked to temperature, might influence the concentrations preserved in snow as well, but its effect cannot be separated from the temperature imprint. Processes involved in NO3 – deposition are discussed and shown to be temperature- and/or accumulation-rate-dependent. Apart from scavenging of nitric acid (HNO3) during formation of precipitation, uptake of HNO3 onto the ice crystal’s surface during and after precipitation seems to contribute further to the NO3 – concentrations found in surface snow. Post-depositional loss of NO3 – from the top snow layers is caused by release of HNO3 and by photolysis of NO3 –. It is suggested that photolysis accounts for considerable losses at sites with very low accumulation rates. Depending on the site characteristic, and given that the temperature and accumulation-rate dependence is quantified, it should be possible to infer changes in atmospheric HNO3 concentrations.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Climate and Environmental Physics

UniBE Contributor:

Bigler, Matthias


500 Science > 530 Physics




International Glaciological Society




BORIS Import 2

Date Deposited:

21 Sep 2021 15:59

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:52

Publisher DOI:





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