On the tuning of plateaus in atmospheric and oceanic 14C records to derive calendar chronologies of deep-sea cores and records of 14C marine reservoir age changes

Type Article
Date 2021
Language English
Author(s) Bard Edouard1, 2, Heaton Timothy J3
Affiliation(s) 1 : CEREGE, Aix-Marseille University, CNRS, IRD, INRAE, Collège de France
2 : Technopôle de l’Arbois, Aix-en-Provence, France
3 : School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S3 7RH, UK
Source Climate of the Past (1814-9332) (Copernicus GmbH), 2021 , Vol. 17 , N. 4 , P. 1701-1725
DOI 10.5194/cp-2020-164

As an extended comment on the paper by Sarnthein et al. (2020), we express strong reservations about the methodology of the so-called 14C plateau tuning (PT) technique used to date marine sediment records and its implications on the determination of 14C marine reservoir ages (MRA). The main problems are linked to: the assumption of constant MRA during 14C-age plateaus; the lack of consideration of foraminifera abundance changes coupled to bioturbation that can create spurious plateaus in marine sediments; the assumption that plateaus have the same shapes and durations in atmospheric and oceanic records; the implication that atmospheric 14C/12C peaked instantaneously from one plateau to the next; that the 14C plateaus represent 82 % of the total time spent between 14,000 and 29,000 cal yr BP, whereas during the remaining 18 % of the time, the radiocarbon clock was running almost 5 times too fast; that the sparsity, combined with the level of analytical uncertainties and additional noise, in both atmospheric and marine data do not currently allow one to reliably or robustly identify plateaus (should they exist) beyond 15,000 cal yr BP; and that the determination and identification of plateaus is reliant upon significant changes in sedimentation rate within the marine sediments which are, a priori, unknown and are not verified with an independent method. The concerns we raise are supported and strengthened with carbon cycle box-model experiments and statistical simulations of pseudo-atmospheric and pseudo-marine records, allowing us to test the ability to identify and tune 14C-age plateaus, in the context of noisy and sparse data.

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