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Letters to Nature
Nature 377, 414 - 417 (05 October 2002); doi:10.1038/377414a0

High concentration of atmospheric 14C during the Younger Dryas cold episode

Tomasz Goslar*, Maurice Arnold, Edouard Bard, Tadeusz Kuc§, Mieczysl strokeaw F. Pazdur*star, Magdalena  Ralska-Jasiewiczowa, Kazimierz Różanski §¶, Nadine Tisnerat , Adam Walanus , Bogumil stroke Wicik£ & Kazimierz Wie cedilqkowski**

*Radiocarbon Laboratory, Institute of Physics, Silesian Technical University, Krzywoustego 2, 44-100 Gliwice, Poland
Centre des Faibles Radioactivités, CNRS-CEA, 91198 Gif-sur-Yvette, France
CEREGE, Universite d'Aix Marseille III, FU CNRS 17, Europole de I'Arbois BP80, 13545 Aix-en-Provence Cedex 4, France
§Faculty of Physics and Nuclear Techniques, Academy of Mining and Metallurgy, Mickiewicza 30, 30-040 Kraków, Poland
Szafer Institute of Botany, Lubicz 46, 31-512 Kraków, Poland
Isotope Hydrology Section, International Atomic Energy Agency, A-1400 Vienna, Austria
£Institute of Geography, Warsaw University, 02-110 Warszawa, Poland
**Institute of Geography and Spatial Organization, Polish Academy of Sciences, 02-110 Warszawa, Poland

THE various reservoirs of the global carbon cycle, with their very different residence times, are linked by a complex and evolving system of exchanges for which natural radiocarbon is the most robust tracer1. Any change in the sizes of these reservoirs, or the exchange rates between them, could perturb the 14C/12C ratio of each other reservoir, and the smallest of them—the atmosphere— would be the most sensitive. In particular, high-resolution reconstructions of past atmospheric 14C/12C ratios may provide important clues to the mechanisms of abrupt climate change. Annually laminated lake sediments potentially provide an optimal record in this respect, as they preserve information about both past atmospheric 14C levels and climate changes, providing absolutely dated material beyond the range of tree-ring chronologies and, unlike corals, directly monitor 14C concentrations in atmospheric CO2. Here we report the relationship between atmospheric 14C concentration and climate changes during the Younger Dryas and early Holocene periods, derived from analyses of the annually laminated sediments of Lake Gśoscia¸ażz, in central Poland. We find that atmospheric 14C concentrations during the Younger Dryas were abnormally high, which we interpret as a reduced ventilation rate of the deep ocean, most probably as a result of a decrease in intensity of the North Atlantic Deep Water formation.

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