Forecasting Atmospheric Radiocarbon Decline to Pre-Bomb Values

Carlos A. Sierra

Radiocarbon, 60, 1055-1066 , doi:10.1017/RDC.2018.33, 2018


In this manuscript, I present an estimation of the rate of decline in atmospheric radiocarbon and the amplitude of its seasonal cycle for the past four decades for the northern and southern hemispheres, and forecast the time required to reach pre-1950 levels (i.e. Δ14C<0‰). Using a set of 30 different exponential smoothing state-space models, the time series were decomposed into their error, trend, and seasonal components, choosing the model that best represented the observed data. According to the best model, the rate of change in Δ14C has decreased considerably since the 1970s and reached values below −5‰ per year since 2005. Overall, the time-series showed larger rates of radiocarbon decline in the northern than in the southern hemisphere, and relatively stable seasonal cycles for both hemispheres. A forecast of the exponential smoothing models predicts that radiocarbon values will reach pre-1950 levels by 2021 in the northern hemisphere with 20% probability, and by around 2035 in the southern hemisphere. However, at regional levels radiocarbon concentrations have already reached pre-1950 levels in several industrialized regions and cities around the world as a consequence of fossil-fuel emissions.

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For additional information, contact: Carlos A. Sierra

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