The 110,000‐year record of ammonium concentrations from the Greenland Ice Sheet Project 2 (GISP2) ice core provides the basis for an analysis of terrestrial biological production and atmospheric circulation patterns involved in the transport of biologically produced ammonium to the Greenland atmosphere. The directly measured concentration series was selected for analysis, rather than that of estimated ammonium flux, after a detailed analysis of the relationship among ice core glaciochemical concentrations and a high‐resolution simultaneous record of snow accumulation from the GISP2 core. Analysis of the ammonium concentration series shows that maxima in background levels of ammonium in the Greenland atmosphere are strongly related to and synchronous with summer forcing associated with the precessional cycle of insolation. Minima in background levels, on the other hand, are delayed relative to minima in summer insolation at those times when ice volume is significant. The duration of these delays are similar in magnitude (≈6000 years) to other paleoclimatic responses to changes in ice volume. Decadal and centennial scale variation about background levels of ammonium concentration exhibit two modes of behavior when compared to a record of polar atmospheric circulation intensity. During warmer periods ammonium transport to Greenland is similar to present patterns. Under coldest conditions the low levels of ammonium transported to Greenland are the result of extreme southerly excursions of the predominantly zonal polar circulation. The rapid transitions (≈200 years) between these two climatic conditions appear to be associated with a critical volume or extent of the continental ice sheets.


Earth Systems Research Center

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Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans


American Geophysical Union (AGU)

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©1997. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.


This is an article published by AGU in Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans in 1997, available online: