The University of Arizona
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The use of radiocarbon measurements in atmospheric studies.

M R Manning, D C Lowe, W H Melhuish, R J Sparks, G Wallace, C M Brenninkmeijer, R C McGill


(super 14) C measured in trace gases in clean air helps to determine the sources of such gases, their long-range transport in the atmosphere, and their exchange with other carbon cycle reservoirs. In order to separate sources, transport and exchange, it is necessary to interpret measurements using models of these processes. We present atmospheric 14CO (sub 2) measurements made in New Zealand since 1954 and at various Pacific Ocean sites for shorter periods. We analyze these for latitudinal and seasonal variation, the latter being consistent with a seasonally varying exchange rate between the stratosphere and troposphere. The observed seasonal cycle does not agree with that predicted by a zonally averaged global circulation model. We discuss recent accelerator mass spectrometry measurements of atmospheric 14CH (sub 4) and the problems involved in determining the fossil fuel methane source. Current data imply a fossil carbon contribution of ca 25%, and the major sources of uncertainty in this number are the uncertainty in the nuclear power source of 14CH (sub 4) , and in the measured value for delta (super 14) C in atmospheric methane.


ion exchange;circulation;alkanes;methane;stratosphere;troposphere;aliphatic hydrocarbons;gases;ratios;wind transport;provenance;geochemical cycle;seasonal variations;Pacific Ocean;C 14 C 12;hydrocarbons;models;atmosphere;Australasia;New Zealand;organic compounds;C 14;carbon;isotopes;radioactive isotopes;carbon dioxide;C 13 C 12;stable isotopes;geochemistry

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