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January 12th, 2004

A better radiocarbon clock improves understanding of Earth’s carbon cycle and geomagnetic field

Konrad Hughen (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and INSTAAR alum) led a seven-member group, including Scott Lehman and Jocelyn Turnbull, in the construction of a new high-resolution calibration of the radiocarbon time scale back to 50,000 years before the present. Their research was published in the January 9 issue of Science. 

The calibration was based on 14C measurements in sediment cores from the tropical Cariaco Basin, which were correlated to the annual-layer counted chronology for the Greenland Ice Sheet Project 2 (GISP2) ice core. The results improved the accuracy of the 14C method, thereby assisting disciplines such as archeology and paleoclimatology.

Moreover, their results yielded fundamental insights into the history of the global carbon cycle and Earth's geomagnetic field.