Variation of rock-forming metals in sub-annual increments of modern Greenland snow

Atmospheric Environment - Part A General Topics



Modern snowpack from central south Greenland was sampled in sub-seasonal increments and analysed for a suite of major, minor and trace rock-forming metals (K, Rb, Cs, Ca, Sr, Ba). There is a sharp seasonal concentration maximum for all six metals that comes in summer, later than mid-June. Metal concentrations in all other parts of the year's snowpack are up to 10 or more times smaller. The concentration maximum is preceded by low values in autumn-winter, very low values in early-mid-spring, and moderate-to-high values in late spring-early summer; this pattern is seen consistently in three-separate time stratigraphic intervals representing the same seasonal periods, spanning the time interval 1981–1984. The absolute concentration values of the snow strata representing the low-concentration portion of the year, autumn-winter-spring, may vary substantially from year to year, by a factor of two, or more.

The finding that all rock-forming metals are at a sharp concentration maximum in late summer contrasts with the interpretations of several other studies in high-latitude northern regions. Those studies have reported a broad maximum of continental dust-associated metals in late winter and spring. However, samples of the other studies have mostly come from regions farther to the north, and the analyses have emphasized industrial pollutant metals rather than the matched rock-forming suite of the present study.

The metals measured were chosen to give information about the origin and identity of the rock and soil dusts, and sea salts, present as impurities in the snow. Metal ratios indicate that the dusts in the snowpacks are of continental origin and from ferromagnesian rocks. Source rock types for dusts in central south Greenland snow contrast with the felsic rock dusts of the Sierra Nevada, CA, annual snowpacks, and with the very felsic rock dusts in large south central Alaskan mountain glaciers. Samples in which masses of sea salt are much larger than those of rock dusts may be identified by small changes in metal ratios caused by moderate increases of K and Ca from marine sources, nearly unaccompanied by the minor and trace metals Rb, Cs and Ba, that are very rare in the oceans.

A sampling frequency, such as that of the present study, that divides a year's accumulation into 8–10 subsamples is sufficient to reveal details of the time pattern of variation in proportions and concentrations of metals that give information about atmospheric deposition of important types of earth materials.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Variation of rock-forming metals in sub-annual increments of modern Greenland snow
Series title Atmospheric Environment - Part A General Topics
DOI 10.1016/0960-1686(92)90359-S
Volume 26 A
Issue 13
Year Published 1992
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Description 11 p.
First page 2283
Last page 2293
Country Greenland
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