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Changes in the carbon cycle during the last deglaciation as indicated by the comparison of Be-10 and C-14 records

  • Raimund Muscheler
  • Jürg Beer
  • Gerhard Wagner
  • Carlo Laj
  • Catherine Kissel
  • Grant M Raisbeck
  • Francoise Yiou
  • Peter W Kubik
Publishing year: 2004
Language: English
Pages: 325-340
Publication/Series: Earth and Planetary Science Letters
Volume: 219
Issue: 3-4
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Elsevier

Abstract english

The variations in atmospheric radiocarbon (C-14) concentration during the last 50 000 years can be attributed to changes in the C-14 production rate (due to changes in solar activity, the geomagnetic field and/or interstellar galactic cosmic ray flux) and to changes in the global carbon cycle. The relative contributions of these processes is the subject of current debate. Although the discrepancies between the various reconstructions of the past atmospheric radiocarbon concentration increase with age, the relatively good agreement over the last 25 000 years allows a quantitative discussion of the causes of the observed C-14 variations for this period. Using Be-10 measurements from Greenland Summit ice cores, we show that, in addition to solar and geomagnetically induced production rate changes, significant changes in the carbon cycle have to be considered to explain the measured C-14 concentrations. There is evidence that these changes are connected to: (1) global deglaciation and (2) climate changes in the North Atlantic region on centennial to millennial time scales related to changes in the ocean circulation. Differences between Be-10 and geomagnetic field records, however, suggest that uncertainties of about 20% still exist in determinations of past changes in the C-14 production rate. (C) 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


  • Geology
  • paleomagnetism
  • cosmogenic radionuclides
  • carbon cycle
  • ocean circulation
  • ice cores


  • ISSN: 1385-013X
Raimund Muscheler
E-mail: raimund [dot] muscheler [at] geol [dot] lu [dot] se


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