Title: The WAIS Melt Monitor: An automated ice core melting system for meltwater sample handling and the collection of high resolution microparticle size distribution data
Author: Breton, D.J., Koffman, B.G., Kreutz, K.J. and Hamilton, G.S.
Periodical: American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2010
Abstract: Paleoclimate data are often extracted from ice cores by careful geochemical analysis of meltwater samples. The analysis of the microparticles found in ice cores can also yield unique clues about atmospheric dust loading and transport, dust provenance and past environmental conditions. Determination of microparticle concentration, size distribution and chemical makeup as a function of depth is especially difficult because the particle size measurement either consumes or contaminates the meltwater, preventing further geochemical analysis. Here we describe a microcontroller-based ice core melting system which allows the collection of separate microparticle and chemistry samples from the same depth intervals in the ice core, while logging and accurately depth-tagging real-time electrical conductivity and particle size distribution data. This system was designed specifically to support microparticle analysis of the WAIS Divide WDC06A deep ice core, but many of the subsystems are applicable to more general ice core melting operations. Major system components include: a rotary encoder to measure ice core melt displacement with 0.1 millimeter accuracy, a meltwater tracking system to assign core depths to conductivity, particle and sample vial data, an optical debubbler level control system to protect the Abakus laser particle counter from damage due to air bubbles, a Rabbit 3700 microcontroller which communicates with a host PC, collects encoder and optical sensor data and autonomously operates Gilson peristaltic pumps and fraction collectors to provide automatic sample handling, melt monitor control software operating on a standard PC allowing the user to control and view the status of the system, data logging software operating on the same PC to collect data from the melting, electrical conductivity and microparticle measurement systems. Because microparticle samples can easily be contaminated, we use optical air bubble sensors and high resolution ice core density profiles to guide the melting process. The combination of these data allow us to analyze melt head performance, minimize outer-to-inner fraction contamination and avoid melt head flooding. The WAIS Melt Monitor system allows the collection of real-time, sub-annual microparticle and electrical conductivity data while producing and storing enough sample for traditional Coulter-Counter particle measurements as well long term acid leaching of bioactive metals (e.g., Fe, Co, Cd, Cu, Zn) prior to chemical analysis.
Year: 2010