Mass spectrometry and climate science. Part I: Determining past climates

by Judith Curry, June 16, 2020 in ChRotter_WUWT

Mass spectrometry is essential for research in climate science.

Understanding climate requires having sufficient knowledge about past climate and about the important factors that are influencing climate today, so that reliable models can be developed to predict future climate.

Analytical chemistry enables measurement of the chemical composition of materials, from the amounts of elements and their isotopes in a sample to the identity and concentrations of substances in the most complex biological organisms.

This two-part series covers the application of a powerful analytical chemistry technology — mass spectrometry — to two important areas in climate science:

  • Obtaining reliable information about past climate
  • Understanding composition and behavior of aerosols, which have a large impact on climate

The examples that are included for each topic were selected out of many published papers on the study of climate using mass spectrometry, partly because they feature a very wide range of types of these instruments. The authors were very helpful in providing me with information on their work.[1]

The technology described in this essay may at times be quite complicated! However, I hope that the results of each study will be understandable.

Part 1: Determining past climate

Figure 1: Age of samples taken at indicated depth below surface of ice core