The distribution of radiocarbon in the glacial ocean


  • Wallace S. Broecker,

  • Tsung-Hung Peng,

  • Sue Trumbore,

  • Georges Bonani,

  • Willy Wolfli


Accelerator mass spectrometric radiocarbon measurements on benthic foraminifera shells, picked from samples on which concordant ages were obtained on the shells of two species of planktonic foraminifera, reveal that the age of deep water in the equatorial Atlantic during glacial time was 675±80 years (compared to today's age of 350 years) and that the age of deep water in the South China Sea was 1670±105 years (compared to today's value of 1600 years). These results demonstrate that the 1.3 to 1.5 times higher radiocarbon content of carbon in glacial surface waters of the Caribbean Sea reconstructed by Bard et al. [1990] was primarily the result of a higher global inventory of radiocarbon rather than a decrease in rate of mixing between surface and deep waters of the ocean. The results are also consistent with the conclusion by Boyle and Keigwin [1987] that the flow of North Atlantic Deep Water was considerably weakened during glacial time, allowing deep waters of Antarctic origin to push much further north into the Atlantic than they do today.