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Problems and Possible Solutions Concerning Radiocarbon Dating of Surface Marine Sediments, Ross Sea, Antarctica

  • John T. Andrews (a1), Eugene W. Domack (a2), Wendy L. Cunningham (a1), Amy Leventer (a3), Kathy J. Licht (a1), A. J. Timothy Jull (a4), David J. DeMaster (a5) and Anne E. Jennings (a1)...

Radiocarbon accelerator mass spectrometric (AMS) dates on the acid-insoluble fraction from 38 core tops from the western Ross Sea, Antarctica, are used to address these questions: (1) What are the apparent ages of sediments at or close to the present sediment/water interface? (2) Is there a statistically significant pattern to the spatial distribution of core top ages? and (3) Is there a “correction factor” that can be applied to these age determinations to obtain the best possible Holocene (downcore) chronologies? Ages of core top sediments range from 2000 to 21,000 14C yr B.P. Some “old” core top dates are from piston cores and probably represent the loss of sediment during the coring process, but some core top samples >6000 14C yr B.P. may represent little or no Holocene deposition. Four possible sources of variability in dates ≤6000 14C yr B.P. (n = 28) are associated with (1) different sample preparation methods, (2) different sediment recovery systems, (3) different geographic regions, and (4) within-sample lateral age variability. Statistical analysis on an a posteriori design indicates that geographic area is the major cause of variability; there is a difference in mean surface sediment age of nearly 2000 yr between sites in the western Ross Sea and sites east of Ross Bank in south-central Ross Sea. The systematic variability in surface age between areas may be attributed to: (a) variable sediment accumulation rates (SAR) (surface age is inversely related to SAR), (b) differences in the percentage of reworked (dead) carbon between each area, and/or (c) differences in the CO2 exchange between the ocean and the atmosphere.

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Quaternary Research
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