Seasonal variations in N and O isotopes of nitrate in snow at Summit, Greenland: Implications for the study of nitrate in snow and ice cores

Meredith G. Hastings, E. J. Steig, Daniel Mikhail Sigman

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Nitrogen and oxygen isotopes of NO3- have been measured in snow and firn from Summit, Greenland. The 15N/ 14N and 18O/16O ratios of NO 3- in recently fallen snow are similar to those of surface snow. Diurnal variation is observed in 15N/ 14N of NO3-, and possibly 18O/16O, suggesting fractionating loss of NO3- from snow during the day, which is subsequently recovered at night. A larger seasonal variation is observed, with higher 15N/14N and lower 18O/16O of NO3- in summer than winter, which cannot be explained by postdepositional fractionation. The generally high 18O/16O of NO 3- in Greenland snow (δ18O versus VSMOW = 65.2 to 79.6‰) indicates that oxygen atoms from ozone have been incorporated into NOx that was subsequently deposited as HNO3. The lower mean δ180 of NO3- in summer snow relative to winter (68.9‰ in summer 2000 and 70.5‰ in summer 2001 versus 77.5‰ in winter 2000-01) is a result of summertime HNO 3 production via NO2 reaction with hydroxyl radical (OH), which dilutes the high δ18O imparted on NO2 from ozone. The higher mean 15N/14N of NO3- observed in snow from spring (δ 15N versus air N2 = +5.9‰ in 2000 and -1.4‰ in 2001) and summer (+0.1‰ in 2000 and -0.8‰ in 2001) than fall (-9.2‰ in 2000) and winter (-10.0‰ in 2000-01) is more difficult to explain with seasonal photochemistry, given current knowledge. The seasonal 15N/14N change may reflect NOx sources, with a greater fall and wintertime contribution from fossil fuel emissions relative to other inputs of NOx (i.e., biogenic soil emissions, biomass burning, and lightning).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)D20306 1-11
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research D: Atmospheres
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 27 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology


  • Greenland snow
  • Isotopes
  • Nitrate


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