Historic records of organic compounds from a high Alpine glacier: influences of biomass burning, anthropogenic emissions, and dust transport

Müller-Tautges, C.; Eichler, A.; Schwikowski, Margit; Pezzatti, G. B.; Conedera, M.; Hoffmann, T. (2016). Historic records of organic compounds from a high Alpine glacier: influences of biomass burning, anthropogenic emissions, and dust transport. Atmospheric chemistry and physics, 16(2), pp. 1029-1043. European Geosciences Union 10.5194/acp-16-1029-2016

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Historic records of α-dicarbonyls (glyoxal, methylglyoxal), carboxylic acids (C6–C12 dicarboxylic acids, pinic acid, p-hydroxybenzoic acid, phthalic acid, 4-methylphthalic acid), and ions (oxalate, formate, calcium) were determined with annual resolution in an ice core from Grenzgletscher in the southern Swiss Alps, covering the time period from 1942 to 1993. Chemical analysis of the organic compounds was conducted using ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography (UHPLC) coupled to electrospray ionization high-resolution mass spectrometry (ESI-HRMS) for dicarbonyls and long-chain carboxylic acids and ion chromatography for short-chain carboxylates. Long-term records of the carboxylic acids and dicarbonyls, as well as their source apportionment, are reported for western Europe. This is the first study comprising long-term trends of dicarbonyls and long-chain dicarboxylic acids (C6–C12) in Alpine precipitation. Source assignment of the organic species present in the ice core was performed using principal component analysis. Our results suggest biomass burning, anthropogenic emissions, and transport of mineral dust to be the main parameters influencing the concentration of organic compounds. Ice core records of several highly correlated compounds (e.g., p-hydroxybenzoic acid, pinic acid, pimelic, and suberic acids) can be related to the forest fire history in southern Switzerland. P-hydroxybenzoic acid was found to be the best organic fire tracer in the study area, revealing the highest correlation with the burned area from fires. Historical records of methylglyoxal, phthalic acid, and dicarboxylic acids adipic acid, sebacic acid, and dodecanedioic acid are comparable with that of anthropogenic emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The small organic acids, oxalic acid and formic acid, are both highly correlated with calcium, suggesting their records to be affected by changing mineral dust transport to the drilling site.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)
08 Faculty of Science > Other Institutions > Teaching Staff, Faculty of Science

UniBE Contributor:

Schwikowski, Margit


500 Science > 540 Chemistry




European Geosciences Union




Monika Wälti-Stampfli

Date Deposited:

19 Jul 2016 12:12

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:57

Publisher DOI:






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