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An oceanic origin for the increase of atmospheric radiocarbon during the Younger Dryas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1 - 6
Number of pages6
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Volume35 (L147047)
DatePublished - Jul 2008


Variations in carbon-14 to carbon-12 ratio in the atmosphere (Δ14Catm) provide a powerful diagnostic for elucidating the timing and nature of geophysical and anthropological change. The (Atlantic) marine archive suggests a rapid Δ14Catm increase of 50‰ at the onset of the Younger Dryas (YD) cold reversal (12.9-11.7 kyr BP), which has not yet been satisfactorily explained in terms of magnitude or causal mechanism, as either a change in ocean ventilation or production rate. Using Earth-system model simulations and comparison of marine-based radiocarbon records from different ocean basins, we demonstrate that the YD Δ14Catm increase is smaller than suggested by the marine archive. This is due to changes in reservoir age, predominantly caused by reduced ocean ventilation.

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Publisher: American Geophysical Union

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