UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Modelling water isotopes in polar ice sheets Lhomme, Nicolas


Concentrations of water isotopes in marine sediments and ice cores are a key indicator for estimating global and regional fluctuations of past temperatures. Interpreting these concentrations requires an understanding of the storage capacity and exchanges among the ocean, atmosphere and cryosphere as well as an understanding of the dynamical behaviour of these reservoirs. The contribution of the latter remains poorly established because of the paucity of deep ice cores in Greenland and Antarctica and the difficulty of interpreting these cores. To obtain the water isotope composition of polar ice sheets and gain an understanding of their stratigraphy, I develop a tracer transport method first proposed by Clarke and Marshall (2002) and significantly improve it by introducing an interpolation technique that accounts for the particular age-depth relationship of ice sheets. I combine the tracers with numerical models of ice dynamics to predict the fine layering of polar ice masses such that it is locally validated at ice core sites, hence setting a new method to constrain reconstructions of ice sheets' climatic and dynamic histories. This framework is first applied and tested with the UBC Ice Sheet Model of Marshall and Clarke (1997). I predict the three-dimensional time-evolving stratigraphy of the Greenland Ice Sheet and use the ice core records predicted at GRIP, Dye 3 and Camp Century to better determine the minimal ice extent during the Eemian, 127 kyr ago, when the Earth's climate was somewhat similar to the present. I suggest that 3.5-4.5 m of sea level rise could be attributed to melting in Greenland. Tracers are also applied to Antarctica with the LGGE Ice Sheet Model of Ritz et al. (2001). The three-dimensional model is compared to simple flow models at the deep ice core sites of Dome C, Vostok and Dome Fuji to test the hypotheses on depositional and dynamical conditions used for interpreting ice cores. These studies lead to a well-constrained stratigraphic reconstruction of the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets and allow me to produce the first-ever self-consistent prediction of their bulk isotopic composition, hence closing the global water isotope budget of the Earth.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.