A Large Drop in Atmospheric 14C/12C and Reduced Melting in the Younger Dryas, Documented with 230Th Ages of Corals

Science  14 May 1993:
Vol. 260, Issue 5110, pp. 962-968
DOI: 10.1126/science.260.5110.962


Paired carbon-14 (14C) and thorium-230(230Th) ages were determined on fossil corals from the Huon Peninsula, Papua New Guinea. The ages were used to calibrate part of the 14C time scale and to estimate rates of sea-level rise during the last deglaciation. An abrupt offset between the 14C and 230Th ages suggests that the atmospheric 14C/12C ratio dropped by 15 percent during the latter part of and after the Younger Dryas (YD). This prominent drop coincides with greatly reduced rates of sea-level rise. Reduction of melting because of cooler conditions during the YD may have caused an increase in the rate of ocean ventilation, which caused the atmospheric 14C/12C ratio to fall. The record of sea-level rise also shows that globally averaged rates of melting were relatively high at the beginning of the YD. Thus, these measurements satisfy one of the conditions required by the hypothesis that the diversion of meltwater from the Mississippi to the St. Lawrence River triggered the YD event.

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