Banded Corals: Changes in Oceanic Carbon-14 During the Little Ice Age

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Science  01 Oct 1982:
Vol. 218, Issue 4567, pp. 13-19
DOI: 10.1126/science.218.4567.13


Radiocarbon analyses and stable isotope measurements are presented foro recent cores of banded corals from the Florida Straits. These values provide a record of variations in the ratio of carbon-14 to carbon-12 in the dissolved inorganic carbon in the surface waters of the Gulf Stream from A.D. 1642 to 1800. An increase in the carbon-14/carbon-12 ratio of 7 per mil for coral growth during the early 1700's was most likely induced by an increase in the carbon-14/carbon-12 ratio of 20 per mil in the atmospheric carbon dioxide that occurred at about 1700. The ratios of oxygen 18 to oxygen-16 in these coral bands show a small decrease of a water temperature (∼1°C) during the latter part of the Little Ice Age (1700 to 1725). These results support the hypothesis that the increase in atmospheric carbon-14 at about 1700, and possibly the temperature change as well, was caused by a decrease in solar activity (Maunder sunspot minimum).