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A concise review is presented of applying 14C produced in the atmospheric nuclear weapons testing program (1950 to 1963), subsequently forming the so-called 14C bomb peak. In order to convey the versatility of this unique isotope signal, selected applications from a variety of different fields are discussed touching on environmental, archaeological, biological, and forensic issues. A comprehensive list of references is supplied for in-depth studies of the respective fields.
In this paper, we analyze the background activity of anthropogenic radionuclides (14C, 3H, 137Cs, and 239,240Pu), emphasizing 14C content, in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in the Lithuanian border region before the commissioning of a new nuclear power plant in Belarus (BelNPP). In terrestrial samples, the 14C concentration varied insignificantly—from 98.6 ± 0.7 to 102.2 ± 0.8 pMC, which is close to the 14C level in atmospheric CO2. In aquatic samples, the 14C concentration varied within wide limits from 76.9 ± 0.7 to 99.6 ± 0.6 pMC, depending on the ecological group of macrophytes. Various ecological groups of macrophytes have experienced the influence of a freshwater reservoir effect. This lowest 14C content in submerged macrophyte species, within the limits of uncertainty, was very close to the specific activity of 14C in DIC (78.6 ± 0.6 pMC) in the water of the Neris River. The background 14C values, together with the data on 3H, 137Cs and 239,240Pu obtained in this study, can be used in the future to assess the contribution of the BelNPP conventional radioactive effluents to the levels of 14C and other radionuclides in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems of the transboundary region of Belarus and Lithuania.
In urban environments, diachronic evolution of water quality can be reconstructed using geochemical analysis of urban secondary carbonate deposits (USCDs), from urban underground structures, similar to speleothems from natural caves. The use of the radiocarbon bomb peak to build their precise chronology was recently tested in two Paris-area urban sites (France). In this study, new samples from contrasted environments in the Paris region were sampled in order to test the sites’ effects on the radiocarbon signal recorded: under wood, under a fountain, in underground aqueducts, in the south and north of Paris. We compared the post-bomb atmospheric radiocarbon record with the one measured at the top of USCDs, and estimated the dead carbon proportion (DCP), between 0 and 40%. USCDs fed by water with a rapid transfer through thin soil (Versailles fountain) had the lowest DCP (14C very close to atmospheric one). Highest DCP were found for USCD from deep underground quarry under urban wood, and intermediate ones for USCDs fed by the waters of perched aquifers. These data support the use of radiocarbon as chronometer for USCDs in contrasted urban contexts, and show that it can be used to determine carbon transport and sources, an important parameter for pollution reconstruction.
We present here the analysis of the radiocarbon concentration and the components deposited on 2-year-old Pinus sylvestris L. needles collected in 2021, which were exposed to air contaminants for approximately two years. The needles were collected from seven sampling sites located near roads, households, and industrial factories in Silesia, the most industrialized part of Poland. The radiocarbon concentration was investigated using liquid scintillation spectrometry. Scanning electron microscopy and energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy were used to quantitatively analyze the elements deposited on the surface of pine needles. The depletion of the radiocarbon concentration in pine needles relative to clean air was observed at most of the investigated sites. Although it has been observed that in the research area, the fossil fuel CO2 emission ranging from 0.4 to 3%, we cannot exclude that Suess effect may be underestimated due to biomass burning and mixing of the 14CO2 origin from different sources. A significant amount of silicon, nitrogen, and sulfur was commonly found in samples, Metal elements of Ca, Fe, Al, Mg, and K were also present in most samples. Heavier elements of Fe and Ti were present in higher concentrations only in needles obtained from sites nearer to the heat and power plant in Łaziska Górne.
This study presents a new stable oxygen isotope chronology, covering the years 800–2000 AD, constructed using modern and subfossil wood derived from trees growing around Lake Schwarzensee in Austria. The climatic signal imparted in the chronology is conditioned mainly by the direct influence of environmental factors on the isotopic signature of source water, which in turn is regulated by evaporation and condensation mechanisms. The second driver of stable oxygen isotope is the physiological response of trees to changing weather conditions, most importantly rates of transpiration. The chronology of stable oxygen isotopes corresponds well with both temperature (r = 0.485; p < 0.05) and total precipitation (r = −0.548; p < 0.05) during the growing season (May–September). This mixed signal results from the fact that the relationship between the content of stable oxygen isotopes and the influence of climate is multifactorial. Moreover, the effect exerted by meteorological conditions on stable isotope ratio changes over time. This is most probably linked to interannual variation in climatic and environmental factors.
The Pleistocene history of the leopard (Panthera pardus) in Europe has been documented by the material obtained from 312 localities, with the last dated ∼1.1 Myr. The relatively small and gracile form of the leopard was very rare during the late Early and Middle Pleistocene. Only after the disappearance of the jaguar (Panthera gombaszoegensis) did P. pardus spread widely in Europe, increasing in size and ecologically substituting P. gombaszoegensis. The number of late Middle Pleistocene localities with leopard remains, younger than 300 kyr, increased considerably. The leopard reached the maximum extension of its geographical range in the Late Pleistocene. The Iberian Peninsula was the last European refuge for this cat. Six sites, the Naciekowa, Obok Wschodniej, Radochowska, and Wschodnia Caves from the Sudety Mountains and the Biśnik and Dziadowa Skała Caves from the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland, have documented the presence of the leopard in Poland between MIS 10/9 and MIS 3. These records are from rocky regions with rugged terrain and are located in the territory of Silesia (southern Poland). A newly obtained radiocarbon date (43–42 kyr) from the Radochowska Cave directly confirms the occurrence of P. pardus in the Sudety Mountains in the middle part of MIS 3.
Terrestrial environments tend to be characterized by an incomplete record of past conditions. For the MIS 3–2 periods, there is only one known site in Poland—Horoszki Duże—in which a probably continuous record of climate change has been preserved. However, this site does not have any high precision multi-proxy analyses. In the absence of continuous high-resolution records, we decided to gather and analyze scattered information. We assembled data originating from various sites in Poland and checked whether the available results of 14C and luminescence dating presented in the form of probability density distributions (PDF) and kernel density estimation (KDE) models would allow their reinterpretation. The data were compared to the Greenland isotope curve to see whether they were consistent with the hypothesis that the number of “warming-cooling” cycles recorded in the examined sediments was of the same order as in those ice-core records. Previously in Poland, usually only two interstadial periods (i.e., Hengelo and Denekamp, 36–38.6 and 28–32 14C kBP, respectively) have been identified in the discussed period. The joint analysis of data from a larger area revealed more warming-cooling events than recorded from individual sites.
This paper presents 66 radiocarbon (14C) dates obtained at 33 key sites from the Polish part of the European Sand Belt. These calibrated dating results were compared to 34 high-resolution 14C dates obtained from a fluvial-aeolian sediments to identify pedogenic phases from the late Pleniglacial interval to the early Holocene. These identified pedogenic phases were correlated with Greenland ice-core records, revealing high sensitivity of the fluvio-aeolian paleoenvironment to climate changes. Two pedogenic phases were identified from the late Pleniglacial interval (Greenland Stadial GS-2.1b and GS-2.1a), three from the Bølling-Allerød interstadial (Greenland Stadial GI-1), one from the late Allerød–Younger Dryas boundary, and at least one from the Younger Dryas. The ages of these pedogenic phases reveal a distinct delay of 50–100 calendar years after the onset of cool climate conditions during GI-1, reflecting gradual withdrawal of vegetation. Soil horizons from the early Holocene do not show any clear relation with climate change, where breaks in soil formation were caused by local factors such as human activity.
The recently formed Batagay mega-thaw slump exposes permafrost deposits to a depth of up to 92 m below ground surface and provides insight into the climate record in the region of the most severe continental climate in the Northern Hemisphere. Radiocarbon and stable isotope data were obtained to verify the age of ice wedges in the Batagay yedoma (upper Ice Complex in the local cryostratigraphy), and to deduce paleoclimate information. A millennial-scale resolution paleotemperature record from radiocarbon-dated ice wedges spans Marine Isotope Stages (MIS) 3–2. The Batagay mean January air paleo-temperature during the 44.9–42 and 30.8–27.1 cal ka BP periods was stable cold has been reconstructed to about –51 ± 3°C each.
Yedoma sediments with thick syngenetic ice wedges have been studied on the Yamal Peninsula, northwestern Siberia. The accumulation of yedoma strata occurred under alternating subaqueous-subaerial conditions, and three tiers of ice wedge were formed mainly on subaerial stages. The ice wedges and enclosing sediments were dated, revealing that the ice wedges were formed between 29 and 18 cal ka BP, while the enclosing sediments are generally older, possibly due to contamination with ancient material (especially in the central part of the yedoma). However, the termination of yedoma complex formation was dated not later than 13.5 cal ka BP. Stable oxygen-isotope data for the ice wedges indicate more severe winter climate conditions during 25–21 cal ka BP, when mean January air temperatures were at least 10°C lower that modern ones, favoring syngenetic ice wedge growth. Yedoma accumulation in the western part of northern Siberia does not support the existence here of an ice sheet during the LGM.
The chronology of Machu Picchu was traditionally associated with the period attributed to the reign of Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui. Within the scheme of the so-called “historical chronology”, proposed by John H. Rowe in 1945, the ascension to power of Pachacuti Inca took place around 1438 CE, and the construction of Machu Picchu began by 1450–1460 CE. Several radiocarbon-dated samples may help to understand the chronology of the construction of llaqta of Machu Picchu, Chachabamba, and Choqesuysuy. However, there is a lack of consensus between different radiocarbon-based Inca chronologies because of the lack of information of which calibration curves to use: Northern Hemisphere (NH), Southern Hemisphere (SH), or a mixed calibration curve? Thus, the main goal of the present investigation is to develop a new methodological approach to reconstruct a radiocarbon-based Incan chronology, an approach based on the determination, through modeling, of the proportion of NH and SH air parcels arriving at three relevant Inca settlements. We found air parcel contributions from the NH and SH for Machu Picchu (51% NH and 49% SH), Chamical (29% NH and 71% SH), and Tiquischullpa (41% NH and 59% SH). Thereby, our investigation brings three proportions to mix NH and SH 14C curves, based on an empirical method and supported by a high-resolution paleoclimatic tracer, for Inca radiocarbon dating studies. Our study emphasizes that great attention should be paid when applying radiocarbon calibration to radiocarbon measurements of samples originating from regions under the influence of the atmospheric circulation-boundary between hemispheres.
Determining the biocomponents in liquid fuels using radiocarbon radioisotope (14C) dating requires sample preparation adaptations to the conditions of the Gliwice Radiocarbon and Mass Spectrometry Laboratory. Liquid scintillation counting (LSC), and accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) were investigated using six samples, including one 14C-free fuel and modern hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO). For AMS, samples were prepared using tin capsules for liquids for EA combustion and graphitization in an AGE system. For LSC, liquid fuels were prepared by mixing with purified preheated sand and a benzene synthesis line. Benzene resublimation was also tested. IRMS measurements were also conducted for benzene to account for isotopic fractionation. Sample background measurements using both methods showed good performances by both AMS and LSC without resublimation. Comparable results were also obtained for HVO.
Wasted tires are the great source of fuel and valuable components but could be a cause of environmental and land pollution. This study shows the detailed method for the determination of radiocarbon isotope (14C) concentration in tires and their pyrolysis products. Samples are taken from truck and passenger car tires in the form of shredded rubber, pyrolysis oil and recovered carbon black. Liquid scintillation counting (LSC) and accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) techniques were used for the investigation at Gliwice Radiocarbon and Mass Spectrometry Laboratory, and National Laboratory for Age Determination, Trondheim, Norway. The results are in good agreement. Radiocarbon concentration of the rubber varies significantly because of its complex structure and composition within the tires. The 14C concentration values were found to be higher in pyrolytic oil compared to rubber, and greater in truck tires rather than car tires.
Brzezie in the Pleszew region was first mentioned in archaeological literature, as the location where a treasure of gold artifacts dating back to the 3rd period of the Bronze Age was discovered in 1876. Archaeological research has been conducted there almost continuously since 1985. The result of many years of fieldwork is the discovery of 363 late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age graves, as well as 50 burials of the Przeworsk culture from the era of Roman influence. In the last few years, further research has been conducted by archeologist Grzegorz Szczurek. After comprehensive geophysical prospecting, the extent of the necropolis was established, and more graves were excavated. For the first time, materials for radiocarbon and luminescence dating were also collected to determine the absolute chronology for this archaeological site. Four samples were dated in the Poznań radiocarbon laboratory, and five luminescence tests were conducted in the Gliwice luminescence laboratory. Due to the complete thermo-destruction of collagen in human bones, age determination was based on carbonate fractionation. In one case, a piece of charcoal was selected for dating purposes. Considering uncertainties and the fact that both methods date different events, the results reveal concurrence, giving a 1000–500 BC range.
During the Late Pleistocene (MIS 5e-2), the brown bear Ursus arctos was widespread in the Czech Republic. From this time interval, the species was recorded in 51 Czech localities, including 10 open-air and 41 cave sites. A total of 18 radiocarbon dates obtained from the material showed the presence of the species in this territory 46–12.6 kyr ago during the Late Pleistocene, but most of the dates are concentrated between 45.7 and 29.3 kyr. Later, its occurrence continued into the Holocene. Three dates confirmed the presence of U. arctos just before and during the LGM. However, during the coolest part of the GS-2.1b interval (about 20.9–19.0 kyr), the species was not recorded in the territory of the Czech Republic. A large, broad-toothed, highly carnivorous priscus ecomorph adapted to live in open grasslands occurred during the Late Pleistocene, while the arctos ecomorph was rarely recorded from that period. The post-LGM time (17.5–14.7 kyr) was characterised by increasing numbers of brown bear dates on the territory of the Czech Republic. It was also a period of progressive afforestation and the disappearance of the priscus ecomorph. The latest occurrence of the priscus ecomorph in the territory of the Czech Republic was represented by a robust mandible from the Býčí skála Cave, dated at 15.4–14.9 kyr.
A new system for preparing 14C samples was established for a compact accelerator mass spectrometer (GXNU-AMS) at Guangxi Normal University. This sample preparation system consists of three units: a vacuum maintenance unit, a CO2 purification unit, and a CO2 reduction unit, all of which were made of quartz glass. A series of radiocarbon (14C) preparation experiments were conducted to verify the reliability of the system. The recovery rate of graphite obtained was more than 80%. The carbon content in the commercial toner and wood sample was linearly fitted to the CO2 pressure in the measurement unit of the system. The results showed a good linear relationship, indicating that the reliability of the sample preparation system. AMS measurements were conducted on a batch of standard, wood, and dead graphite samples prepared using this system. The results showed that the beam current of 12C- for each sample was more than 40 μA, the carbon contamination introduced during the sample preparation process was ∼ 2 × 10–15, and that the new sample preparation system is compact, low-contamination, and efficient and meets the GXNU-AMS requirements for 14C samples.
In the frame of the IAEA-CRP (Coordinated Research Projects): Enhancing Nuclear Analytical Techniques to Meet the Needs of Forensic Sciences, an intercomparison exercise was organized between three AMS laboratories. Aim of the program is to promote the use of nuclear and accelerator-based techniques in routine forensics practice. In this view, one of the key points is the assessment of the precision and accuracy levels achievable on material of forensic interest. We review the general structure and status of the project, with emphasis on results obtained in the analysis of wines of different grape varieties and grounded coffee beans from different locations such as Brazil, Spain, and Italy. The three laboratories processed the samples according to different chemical protocols and performed the 14C measurements using different systems: MICADAS in Zurich and Debrecen and a HVEE 4130HC 3 MV Tandetron in Lecce. Within the quoted uncertainty, the results showed good reproducibility, indicating that uncertainty level of the order of 0.3% are achieved by AMS on a single sample while multiple sample analyses results in precision down to 0.1–0.2%. The measured 14C concentrations on coffee and wine samples resulted to be consistent with atmospheric 14C levels in the growing years.
During the last 60 years, the thickness of the Grel peatland deposits (Polish Inner Carpathians), was decreased twice: from about 7.4 m in 1962, to 3.9 m in 2019. Pollen analyses of peat deposits performed in 1962 (Koperowa 1962) and 2019 (this study) showed that the peatland deposits have accumulated since the Oldest Dryas Stadial up to the present day. Comparative analysis of both palynological profiles was carried out, which exhibits a high consistency of the percentage of pollen of several taxa for the 10 horizons occurring in both profiles. Based on the age–depth curve made for the new profile, the modeled age for the above-mentioned compliance levels was obtained and based on this age, a “retrospective” age–depth model was elaborated for the Koperowa’s profile. The analysis of both profiles showed that the compaction of sediments did not occur proportionally in the entire sequence. The conducted research indicates that contemporary human activity may significantly affect the whole length of peatland profiles, not only their upper parts, as previously was considered. The reconstruction of the palaeoenvironment (palaeoclimate) based on multiproxy analysis of the peatland deposits is capable to precisely document this phenomenon.
The available paleosol and paleowood data from the head of the Akkol trough valley, South Chuya range, indicates a climatically driven glacier dynamic in the Russian Altai. Radiocarbon dating of paleosols and paleotree fragments help determine the beginning of the Neoglacial in this high mountain region in the middle of the Holocene. New data limit the advance of the Sofiysky glacier at that time by the front of the Historical moraine. Less so than during the Historical stage (2.3–1.7 cal kBP), glacial activity 5–4 cal kBP is also supported by rapid reforestation. The Akkem moraine in trough valleys of the Russian Altai accumulated prior to the Holocene. The limitations and difficulties of radiocarbon dating of paleosols should be considered when interpreting the dating results.