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Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Clim. Past, 12, 2033-2059, 2016
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-12-2033-2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
28 Oct 2016
Boreal fire records in Northern Hemisphere ice cores: a review
Michel Legrand1, Joseph McConnell2, Hubertus Fischer3, Eric W. Wolff4, Susanne Preunkert1, Monica Arienzo2, Nathan Chellman2, Daiana Leuenberger3, Olivia Maselli2, Philip Place5, Michael Sigl2, Simon Schüpbach3, and Mike Flannigan6 1Université Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, Laboratoire de Glaciologie et Géophysique de l'Environnement (LGGE), Grenoble, France
2Division of Hydrologic Sciences, Desert Research Institute, Reno, Nevada, USA
3Climate & Environmental Physics, Physics Institute & Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
4Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
5Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York, USA
6Department of Renewable Resources, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada
Abstract. Here, we review different attempts made since the early 1990s to reconstruct past forest fire activity using chemical signals recorded in ice cores extracted from the Greenland ice sheet and a few mid-northern latitude, high-elevation glaciers. We first examined the quality of various inorganic (ammonium, nitrate, potassium) and organic (black carbon, various organic carbon compounds including levoglucosan and numerous carboxylic acids) species proposed as fire proxies in ice, particularly in Greenland. We discuss limitations in their use during recent vs. pre-industrial times, atmospheric lifetimes, and the relative importance of other non-biomass-burning sources. Different high-resolution records from several Greenland drill sites and covering various timescales, including the last century and Holocene, are discussed. We explore the extent to which atmospheric transport can modulate the record of boreal fires from Canada as recorded in Greenland ice. Ammonium, organic fractions (black and organic carbon), and specific organic compounds such as formate and vanillic acid are found to be good proxies for tracing past boreal fires in Greenland ice. We show that use of other species – potassium, nitrate, and carboxylates (except formate) – is complicated by either post-depositional effects or existence of large non-biomass-burning sources. The quality of levoglucosan with respect to other proxies is not addressed here because of a lack of high-resolution profiles for this species, preventing a fair comparison. Several Greenland ice records of ammonium consistently indicate changing fire activity in Canada in response to past climatic conditions that occurred during the last millennium and since the last large climatic transition. Based on this review, we make recommendations for further study to increase reliability of the reconstructed history of forest fires occurring in a given region.

Citation: Legrand, M., McConnell, J., Fischer, H., Wolff, E. W., Preunkert, S., Arienzo, M., Chellman, N., Leuenberger, D., Maselli, O., Place, P., Sigl, M., Schüpbach, S., and Flannigan, M.: Boreal fire records in Northern Hemisphere ice cores: a review, Clim. Past, 12, 2033-2059, https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-12-2033-2016, 2016.
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Here, we review previous attempts made to reconstruct past forest fire using chemical signals recorded in Greenland ice. We showed that the Greenland ice records of ammonium, found to be a good fire proxy, consistently indicate changing fire activity in Canada in response to past climatic conditions that occurred since the last 15 000 years, including the Little Ice Age and the last large climatic transition.
Here, we review previous attempts made to reconstruct past forest fire using chemical signals...
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