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No. 8: Fall 1979

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Coral Carbon Ratios Confound Chronometry

By measuring the carbon-14/carbon-12 ratios in the annual growth bands of coral, scientists hope to spot natural and man-made changes in global chemistry. For example, the large-scale use of fossil fuels should depress the ratio by adding carbon-12 in undue quanti ties. The advent of the nuclear age boosts the ratio through the addition of carbon-14 to the environment. Predictably, the carbon ratio rises dramatical ly after 1950 (the bomb tests, etc.). Before this date, however, anomalies crop up:

  1. Coral-ring and tree-ring data differ substantaially when they should not;

  2. Coral-ring carbon ratios from relatively close locales, such as Bermuda (solid line) and the Florida Keys (dashed line), also differ significantly.

Item 1 might be due to non-atmospheric carbon upwelling in deep-ocean water; but this would not explain the Bermuda and Florida discrepancies.

(Anonymous; "Carbon-14 Variations in Coral," Open Earth, No. 3 p. 30, 1979

Comment. These discrepancies are particularly relevant to the carbon-14 dating of seashells, which often produces wildly incorrect ages.

Coral ring carbon ratios

From Science Frontiers #8, Fall 1979. 1979-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987