Ice age myth about isotopes

  • Thread starter Andre
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Here you can see how the Greenland isotope proxies in the ice core records have been studied very carefully on temperature sensitivity:

http://www.ipsl.jussieu.fr/GLACIO/hoffmann/Texts/jouzelJGR1997.pdf [Broken]

The result is figure 4 (pag 7) where the temperature variation is derived from a complex set of inputs, including deuterium excess, d18O and what not. We also see a perfect match with the precipitation.

Since then many many studies about paleoclimate conditions have been conducted with generally two outcomes: the isotope ratios of most proxies matched the isotopes of Greenland but warming indicators did not, like shifts in warm / cold species of many biological proxies as well as the main glacial recessions. The warming on the Northern hemisphere had begun more than two millenniums earlier around 18ka – 17,5Ka.

There is an ad hoc hap hazard hypothesis that the isotopes are delayed due to massive sea ice but that’s refuted immediately because low latitude isotopes all mimic Greenland without ice sheets around.

What went wrong, what are the isotopes telling us?

It may be known that we challenge the ice core ice isotope records of Greenland to be precipitation indicators rather than temperature indicators. The shifts in precipitation being attributed to maritime upheaval caused by massive methane hydrate decomposition events and the precipitation shifts clearly visible in multiple proxies around the world, ultimately causing the extinction of many megafauna species.

But one of the main objectives against that is warming attribution to the isotope values although it has been observed that isotopes and amount of precipitation corrolate (for instance Steig et al 1994, PhD thesis Van Helsen 2006). I have long attributed this to seasonal variability but let’s review the basics.

If you observe isotope physics a little casual one of the first things you encounter is:

http://wwwrcamnl.wr.usgs.gov/isoig/period/h_iig.html

The two main factors that control the isotopic signature of precipitation at a given location are 1) the temperature of condensation of the precipitation and 2) the degree of rainout of the air mass (the ratio of water vapor that has already condensed.
What about the temperature of condensation?

http://ww2010.atmos.uiuc.edu/(Gh)/guides/maps/sfcobs/dwp.rxml

Dew points indicate the amount moisture in the air. The higher the dew points, the higher the moisture content of the air at a given temperature. Dew point temperature is defined as the temperature to which the air would have to cool (at constant pressure and constant water vapor content) in order to reach saturation. A state of saturation exists when the air is holding the maximum amount of water vapor possible at the existing temperature and pressure...

Relative Humidity can be inferred from dew point values. When air temperature and dew point temperatures are very close, the air has a high relative humidity. The opposite is true when there is a large difference between air and dew point temperatures, which indicates air with lower relative humidity. Locations with high relative humidity’s indicate that the air is nearly saturated with moisture; clouds and precipitation are therefore quite possible.


Why did it take so long to see the blatantly obvious?:

The temperature of condensation of the precipitation is the dew point

consequently the isotopes measure dewpoint, not ambient temperature and
“When air temperature and dew point temperatures are very close, the air has a high relative humidity. The opposite is true when there is a large difference between air and dew point temperatures, which indicates air with lower relative humidity.”

Consequently high dewpoint - relative humidity - much precipitation, low dewpoint -arid - little precipitation

Consequently isotopes measuring dew points, are measuring the amount of precipitation "at a given location".

At a given location? be it the tropics? Greenland? Antarctica?

From the original source:

http://www.ipsl.jussieu.fr/GLACIO/hoffmann/Texts/jouzelJGR1997.pdf [Broken]

For tropical and equatorial sites the isotopic content of the precipitation is controlled mostly by precipitation amount
for obvious reasons now. Also:

Also we should keep in mind that isotopic changes record cloud temperature
right!

I see a lot of assumtions modelling, possible explanations etc but can't seem to find a passage explaining the temperature – dew point variation with humidity and a required correction from dew point to ambient temperature using the amount of precipitation as a humidity indicator. I wonder why this omission. So many wise authors.

I'd say: For any given location the isotopic content of the precipitation is controlled mostly by precipitation amount, the reconstruction of the ambient temperature requires the relative humidity to be estimated too, for instance from the amount of precipitation. Right?

Look again at fig 4 with the extreme correlation between precipation and isotopes. That's the message. Arid looks cold, moist looks warm. If the correction would be applied temperatures may show completely different.
 
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