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Supernovae and Single-Year Anomalies in the Atmospheric Radiocarbon Record

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 August 2016

Michael Dee*
University of Oxford – RLAHA, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QY, United Kingdom
Benjamin Pope
University of Oxford – Physics, Denys Wilkinson Building, Keble Road, Oxford, OX1 3RH, United Kingdom
Daniel Miles
University of Oxford – RLAHA, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QY, United Kingdom
Sturt Manning
Cornell University – Cornell Tree-Ring Laboratory, Ithaca, New York, USA
Fusa Miyake
Nagoya University – ISEE, Nagoya, Japan
*Corresponding author. Email:


Single-year spikes in radiocarbon production are caused by intense bursts of radiation from space. Supernovae emit both high-energy particle and electromagnetic radiation, but it is the latter that is most likely to strike the atmosphere all at once and cause a surge in 14C production. In the 1990s, it was claimed that the supernova in 1006 CE produced exactly this effect. With the 14C spikes in the years 775 and 994 CE now attributed to extreme solar events, attention has returned to the question of whether historical supernovae are indeed detectable using annual 14C measurements. Here, we combine new and existing measurements over six documented and putative supernovae, and conclude that no such astrophysical event has yet left a distinct imprint on the past atmospheric 14C record.

Rapid Event in the Natural Atmospheric 14C Content
© 2016 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona 

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Selected Papers from the 2015 Radiocarbon Conference, Dakar, Senegal, 16–20 November 2015



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