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Tree-ring series offer considerable potential for the development of environment-sensitive proxy records. However, with traditional increment cores, only small amounts of wood are often available from annual tree-ring sequences. For this reason, it is important to understand the reliability (and reproducibility) of radiocarbon measurements obtained from small-sized samples. Here we report the F14C results from the Chronos 14Carbon-Cycle Facility of modern tropical Australian tree samples over a range of four graphite target sizes from the same rings. Our study shows that similar precision can be obtained from full-sized, half-sized, as well as small-sized graphite targets using standard pretreatment and analysis procedures. However, with a decline in sample size, there was an increase seen in the associated variance of the ages and the smallest target weights started showing a systematic bias. Wiggle-matching accuracy tests, comparing the Southern Hemisphere post-bomb atmospheric calibration curve to the different sample weight sequences, were all significant except for the 200 μgC graphite targets. Our results indicate that samples smaller than 350 μgC have limited accuracy and precision. Overall, reliable measurements of F14C sequences from tree-ring records across a range of sample sizes, with best results found using graphitized samples >350 μgC.
This paper presents a compilation of atmospheric radiocarbon for the period 1950–2019, derived from atmospheric CO2 sampling and tree rings from clean-air sites. Following the approach taken by Hua et al. (2013), our revised and extended compilation consists of zonal, hemispheric and global radiocarbon (14C) data sets, with monthly data sets for 5 zones (Northern Hemisphere zones 1, 2, and 3, and Southern Hemisphere zones 3 and 1–2). Our new compilation includes smooth curves for zonal data sets that are more suitable for dating applications than the previous approach based on simple averaging. Our new radiocarbon dataset is intended to help facilitate the use of atmospheric bomb 14C in carbon cycle studies and to accommodate increasing demand for accurate dating of recent (post-1950) terrestrial samples.
Precise radiocarbon (14C) dating of sedimentary sequences is important for developing robust chronologies of environmental change, but sampling of suitable components can be challenging in highly dynamic landscapes. Here we investigate radiocarbon determinations of different peat size fractions from six peat sites, representing a range of geomorphological contexts on the South Atlantic subantarctic islands of the Falklands and South Georgia. To investigate the most suitable fraction for dating, 112 measurements were obtained from three components within selected horizons: a fine fraction <0.2 mm, a coarse fraction >0.2 mm, and bulk material. We find site selection is critical, with locations surrounded by high-ground and/or relatively slowly accumulating sites more susceptible to the translocation of older carbon. Importantly, in locations with reduced potential for redeposition of material, our results show that there is no significant or systematic difference between ages derived from bulk material, fine or coarse (plant macrofossil) material, providing confidence in the resulting age model. Crucially, in areas comprising complex terrain with extreme relief, we recommend dating macrofossils or bulk carbon rather than a fine fraction, or employing comprehensive dating of multiple sedimentary fractions to determine the most reliable fraction(s) for developing a robust chronological framework.
This research investigates two factors influencing the ability of tree-ring data to provide accurate 14C calibration information: the fitness and rigor of the statistical model used to combine the data into a curve; and the accuracy, precision and reproducibility of the component 14C data sets. It presents a new Bayesian spline method for calibration curve construction and tests it on extant and new Southern Hemisphere (SH) data sets (also examining their dendrochronology and pretreatment) for the post-Little Ice Age (LIA) interval AD 1500–1950. The new method of construction allows calculation of component data offsets, permitting identification of laboratory and geographic biases. Application of the new method to the 10 suitable SH 14C data sets suggests that individual offset ranges for component data sets appear to be in the region of ± 10 yr. Data sets with individual offsets larger than this need to be carefully assessed before selection for calibration purposes. We identify a potential geographical offset associated with the Southern Ocean (high latitude) Campbell Island data. We test the new methodology for wiggle-matching short tree-ring sequences and use an OxCal simulation to assess the likely precision obtainable by wiggle-matching in the post-LIA interval.
Arguably the best known scientific Antarctic venture was the British Antarctic Expedition of 1911–1913 led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott. Whilst the so-called race to the geographic South Pole with Roald Amundsen's Norwegian Antarctic expedition excited international interest, the tragic death of Scott and his returning Polar Party was a striking reminder of the hazards of operating in the south. Recent work has highlighted the possible role expedition second-in-command Lieutenant Edward ‘Teddy’ Evans played in the deaths of Scott and his men. Here I report newly discovered documents which, when placed in a wider context, raise significant questions over Evans’ behaviour during the expedition. The evidence focuses on the shortage of food at key depots, the apparently deliberate obfuscation of when Evans fell down with scurvy and the failure to pass on orders given by Scott. It is concluded that Evans actions on and off the ice can at best be described as ineffectual, at worst deliberate sabotage. Why Evans was not questioned more about these events on his return to England remains unknown.
New dating confirms that people occupied the Australian continent before the earliest time inferred from conventional radiocarbon analysis. Many of the new ages were obtained by accelerator mass spectrometry 14C dating after an acid–base–acid pretreatment with bulk combustion (ABA-BC) or after a newly developed acid–base–wet oxidation pretreatment with stepped combustion (ABOX-SC). The samples (charcoal) came from the earliest occupation levels of the Devil's Lair site in southwestern Western Australia. Initial occupation of this site was previously dated 35,000 14C yr B.P. Whereas the ABA-BC ages are indistinguishable from background beyond 42,000 14C yr B.P., the ABOX-SC ages are in stratigraphic order to ∼55,000 14C yr B.P. The ABOX-SC chronology suggests that people were in the area by 48,000 cal yr B.P. Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL), electron spin resonance (ESR) ages, U-series dating of flowstones, and 14C dating of emu eggshell carbonate are in agreement with the ABOX-SC 14C chronology. These results, based on four independent techniques, reinforce arguments for early colonization of the Australian continent.
Lithology, pollen, macrofossils, and stable carbon isotopes from an intermontane basin bog site in southern New Zealand provide a detailed late-glacial and early Holocene vegetation and climate record. Glacial retreat occurred before 17,000 cal yr B.P., and tundra-like grassland"shrubland occupied the basin shortly after. Between 16,500 and 14,600 cal yr B.P., a minor regional expansion of forest patches occurred in response to warming, but the basin remained in shrubland. Forest retreated between 14,600 and 13,600 cal yr B.P., at about the time of the Antarctic Cold Reversal. At 13,600 cal yr B.P., a steady progression from shrubland to tall podocarp forest began as the climate ameliorated. Tall, temperate podocarp trees replaced stress-tolerant shrubs and trees between 12,800 and 11,300 cal yr B.P., indicating sustained warming during the Younger Dryas Chronozone (YDC). Stable isotopes suggest increasing atmospheric humidity from 11,800 to 9300 cal yr B.P. Mild (annual temperatures at least 1°C higher than present), and moist conditions prevailed from 11,000 to 10,350 cal yr B.P. Cooler, more variable conditions followed, and podocarp forest was completely replaced by montane Nothofagus forest at around 7500 cal yr B.P. with the onset of the modern climate regime. The Cass Basin late-glacial climate record closely matches the Antarctic ice core records and is in approximate antiphase with the North Atlantic.
It is well known that radiocarbon years do not directly equate to calendar time. As a result, considerable effort has been devoted to generating a decadally resolved calibration curve for the Holocene and latter part of the last termination. A calibration curve that can be unambiguously attributed to changes in atmospheric 14C content has not, however, been generated beyond 26 kyr cal BP, despite the urgent need to rigorously test climatic, environmental, and archaeological models. Here, we discuss the potential of New Zealand kauri (Agathis australis) to define the structure of the 14C calibration curve using annually resolved tree rings and thereby provide an absolute measure of atmospheric 14C. We report bidecadally sampled 14C measurements obtained from a floating 1050-yr chronology, demonstrating repeatable 14C measurements near the present limits of the dating method. The results indicate that considerable scope exists for a high-resolution 14C calibration curve back through OIS-3 using subfossil wood from this source.
Although high-sensitivity liquid scintillation (LS) spectroscopy is theoretically capable of producing finite radiocarbon ages in the 50,000- to 70,000-yr range, there is little evidence in the literature that meaningful dates in this time period have been obtained. The pressing need to undertake calibration beyond 26 kyr has resulted in the regular publication of 14C results in excess of 50 kyr, yet very little effort has been made to demonstrate their accuracy or precision. There is a paucity of systematic studies of the techniques required to produce reliable dates close to background and the methods needed to assess contamination from either in situ sources or laboratory handling and processing. We have studied the requirements for producing accurate and reliable dates beyond 50 kyr. Laboratory procedures include optimization of LS spectrometers to obtain low and stable non-14C background count rates, use of low-background counting vials, large benzene volumes, long counting times, and preconditioning of vacuum lines. We also discuss the need for multiple analyses of a suitable material containing no original 14C (background blank) and the application of an appropriate statistical model to compensate for variability in background contamination beyond counting statistics. Accurate and reproducible finite ages >60 kyr are indeed possible by high-sensitivity LS spectroscopy, but require corroborating background blank data to be defensible.
We present δ13C data from both bulk organic sediment samples and terrestrial plant macrofossils from five high-resolution sedimentary sequences from the United Kingdom from which extensive multiproxy data sets have been obtained. These span the last glacial-interglacial transition. Chronological control has been provided by radiocarbon dating and/or tephrochronology. The results demonstrate that significant shifts in bulk organic δ13C can be identified at key climatic transitions in most of the sites. The data are affected by site-specific influences that restrict their use as chronological markers. However, terrestrial plant macrofossil records are more consistent and reveal shifts that appear to be synchronous and which therefore offer a basis for interregional correlation as well as significant paleoenvironmental information.
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