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Planktic and Benthic 14C Reservoir Ages for Three Ocean Basins, Calibrated by a Suite of 14C Plateaus in the Glacial-to-Deglacial Suigetsu Atmospheric 14C Record

Michael Sarnthein, Sven Balmer, Pieter M Grootes, Manfred Mudelsee


This article presents a compilation of planktic and benthic 14C reservoir ages for the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) and early deglacial from 11 key sites of global ocean circulation in the Atlantic and Indo-Pacific Ocean. The ages were obtained by 14C plateau tuning, a robust technique to derive both an absolute chronology for marine sediment records and a high-resolution record of changing reservoir/ventilation ages (Δ14C values) for surface and deep waters by comparing the suite of planktic 14C plateaus of a sediment record with that of the atmospheric 14C record. Results published thus far have used as atmospheric 14C reference U/Th-dated corals, the Cariaco planktic record, and speleothems. We have now used the varve-counted atmospheric 14C record of Lake Suigetsu terrestrial macrofossils to recalibrate the boundary ages and reservoir ages of the seven published records directly to an atmospheric 14C record. In addition, the results for four new cores and further planktic results for four published records are given. Main conclusions from the new compilation are the following: (1) The Suigetsu atmospheric 14C record on its varve-counted timescale reflects all 14C plateaus, their internal structures, and relative length previously identified, but implies a rise in the average 14C plateau age by 200–700 14C yr during the LGM and early deglacial times. (2) Based on different 14C ages of coeval atmospheric and planktic 14C plateaus, marine surface water Δ14C may have temporarily dropped to an equivalent of ~0 yr in low-latitude lagoon waters, but reached >2500 14C yr both in stratified subpolar waters and in upwelled waters such as in the South China Sea. These values differ significantly from a widely assumed constant global planktic Δ14C value of 400 yr. (3) Suites of deglacial planktic Δ14C values are closely reproducible in 14C records measured at neighboring core sites. (4) Apparent deep-water 14C ventilation ages (equivalents of benthic Δ14C), deduced from the sum of planktic Δ14C and coeval benthic-planktic 14C differences, vary from 500 up to >5000 yr in LGM and deglacial ocean basins.

DOI: 10.2458/azu_rc.57.17916


C14, absolute age, marine sediment cores, C14 reservoir ages, methods

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