Accuracy of radiocarbon dating

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This apparent age of oceanic water is caused both by the delay in exchange rates between atmospheric CO2 and ocean bicarbonate, and the dilution effect caused by the mixing of surface waters with upwelled deep waters which are very old (Mangerud 1972).

A reservoir correction must therefore be made to any conventional shell dates to account for this difference.

Reservoir corrections for the world oceans can be found at the Marine Reservoir Correction Database, a searchable database online at Queen's University, Belfast and the University of Washington.

Human bone may be a problematic medium for dating in some instances due to human consumption of fish, whose C14 label will reflect the ocean reservoir.

In this page, we consider natural reservoir variations and variations brought about by human interaction].

Radiocarbon samples which obtain their carbon from a different source (or reservoir) than atmospheric carbon may yield what is termed apparent ages.

The presence of bomb carbon in the earth's biosphere has enabled it to be used as a tracer to investigate the mechanics of carbon mixing and exchange processes.

Spurious radiocarbon dates caused by volcanic emanations of radiocarbon-depleted CO2 probably also come under the category of reservoir corrections.Since about 1955, thermonuclear tests have added considerably to the C14 atmospheric reservoir.This C14 is 'artificial' or 'bomb' C14, produced because nuclear bombs produce a huge thermal neutron flux.The logical conclusion from this was that in order to obtain a modern radiocarbon reference standard, representing the radiocarbon activity of the 'present day', one could not very well use wood which grew in the 1900's since it was affected by this industrial effect.Thus it was that 1890 wood was used as the modern radiocarbon standard, extrapolated for decay to 1950 AD.Because the source of the industrial fuels has been predominantly material of infinite geological age ( e.g coal, petroleum), whose radiocarbon content is nil, the radiocarbon activity of the atmosphere has been lowered in the early part of the 20th century up until the 1950's.

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