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Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems








Total dissolvable iron (TDFe) was measured in sections of ice cores recovered from Law Dome on the coast of Wilkes Land, East Antarctica. These samples include ice dating from the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), the Last Deglaciation, and the early and mid Holocene as well as samples from the Anthropocene that have been dated with seasonal to annual resolution. Combining our TDFe concentration data with estimates of the ice accumulation rate, we estimate the atmospheric iron deposition for Law Dome and the adjacent Southern Ocean during these periods. Our results indicate that the atmospheric iron deposition flux to this region during the LGM (∼8 μmol Fe m-2 yr-1) was an order of magnitude higher than the av. Holocene deposition flux (∼0.8 μmol Fe m-2 yr-1). This Holocene flux estimate is significantly higher than recent estimates of atmospheric iron deposition based on the analysis of iron in samples of the Dome C EPICA ice core, implying that there are significant meridional gradients in eolian iron flux to the Antarctic region. Our data also suggest that there have been significant variations in atmospheric iron deposition to Law Dome and adjacent ocean waters over seasonal to decadal timescales during the past century. Analysis of ice samples dating from calendar years 1927 to 1928 indicates an anomalously high flux of TDFe to the Law Dome region, amounting to around half the maximum LGM flux, possibly as a result of severe drought conditions on the Australian continent. Given that chronic iron deficiency is thought to limit phytoplankton production in much of the ocean around Antarctica, such large secular variations in atmospheric iron supply are likely to have had profound impacts on year-to-year primary production and ecosystem structure in Antarctic waters.

Original Publication Citation

Edwards, R., Sedwick, P., Morgan, V., & Boutron, C. (2006). Iron in ice cores from Law Dome: A record of atmospheric iron deposition for maritime East Antarctica during the Holocene and Last Glacial Maximum. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 7(12), 1-15. doi: 10.1029/2006GC001307