The University of Arizona

Allocation of Terrestrial Carbon Sources Using 14CO2: Methods, Measurement, and Modeling

Scott J Lehman, John B Miller, Chad Wolak, John Southon, Pieter P Tans, Stephen A Montzka, Colm Sweeney, Arlyn Andrews, Brian LaFranchi, Thomas P Guilderson, Jocelyn C Turnbull


The radiocarbon content of whole air provides a theoretically ideal and now observationally proven tracer for recently added fossil-fuel-derived CO2 in the atmosphere (Cff). Over large industrialized land areas, determination of Cff also constrains the change in CO2 due to uptake and release by the terrestrial biosphere. Here, we review the development of a Δ14CO2 measurement program and its implementation within the US portion of the NOAA Global Monitoring Division’s air sampling network. The Δ14CO2 measurement repeatability is evaluated based on surveillance cylinders of whole air and equates to a Cff detection limit of ≤0.9 ppm from measurement uncertainties alone. We also attempt to quantify additional sources of uncertainty arising from non-fossil terms in the atmospheric 14CO2 budget and from uncertainties in the composition of “background” air against which Cff enhancements occur. As an example of how we apply the measurements, we present estimates of the boundary layer enhancements of Cff and Cbio using observations obtained from vertical airborne sampling profiles off of the northeastern US. We also present an updated time series of measurements from NOAA GMD’s Niwot Ridge site at 3475 m asl in Colorado in order to characterize recent Δ14CO2 variability in the well-mixed free troposphere.

DOI: 10.2458/azu_js_rc.55.16392


atmospheric D14CO2, fossil fuel CO2

Full Text: