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Ethane measurements in Greenland ice cores: Developing a preindustrial record


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Ethane is one of the most abundant hydrocarbon gases in the atmosphere with emissions from production and use of fossil fuels, from biomass burning, and from a variety of geologic sources. All ethane sources also emit methane, the second most important greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. However, ethane does not share the biological source of methane, making it a useful proxy for specific methane sources. This project will analyze of paleo-atmospheric ethane (C2H6), using a wet-extraction technique that has been used to measure ethane in Antarctic ice cores, using ice core samples from Summit, Greenland and producing the first northern hemisphere ethane record. The results will enable answers to questions about the importance of geological emissions of methane to the preindustrial atmosphere, and about the timing and magnitude of changes in biomass burning emissions during the late Holocene. In conjunction with measurements on Antarctic ice cores, the data from this project will help establish the north-south interhemispheric gradient of ethane in the preindustrial atmosphere. This project includes support for a PhD student and undergraduate researchers in the Department of Earth System Science at the University of California, Irvine. The results will contribute to a PhD dissertation and senior theses of senior undergraduate students. This project will also create summer research opportunities for undergraduates from non- research active universities through the REU site program in Biogeochemistry and Climate Change. The PI and the co-PI will participate in on- and off-campus activities directed towards educating high-school science teachers about climate change and its impacts, including a presentation at the 2011 regional meeting of the National Science Teachers Association. The results of this work will be disseminated via peer-review publications and will contribute to policy-relevant activities such as the IPCC Climate Assessment. Data resulting from this project will be archived in a national data repository.