Variations in the Isotopic Composition of Carbon in Urban Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

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Science  13 Oct 1967:
Vol. 158, Issue 3798, pp. 263-264
DOI: 10.1126/science.158.3798.263


Measurement of the abundance of atmospheric carbon dioxide as an indicator of air pollution has been of very limited value because of variations in urban areas in the substantial concentration of natural carbon dioxide produced from combustion and noncombustion (natural) sources. A solution to this problem is the use of precise isotopic assay of ratios of carbon-13 to carbon-12 in atmospheric carbon dioxide. There is very little variation of carbon isotopic composition in samples taken over rural or urban areas where rapid mixing and diffusion of gaseous combustion products is possible. Significant differences in this composition in samples taken at centrally located points at street level in the lower Manhattan business district show an increase in concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide of roughly 20 percent produced primarily by automobile exhaust.