Climate Research and Development ProgramClimate R&D Program

Radiocarbon Dating

Carbon extraction line. Sample CO2 gas is reduced to pure carbon as graphite precipitated on iron powder for dating by accelerator mass spectrometry.
Carbon extraction line. Sample CO2 gas is reduced to pure carbon as graphite precipitated on iron powder for dating by accelerator mass spectrometry.

The objective of this Lab is to provide prompt, accurate and precise radiocarbon (14C) accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) analyses on a wide variety of geologic materials in support of Climate and Land Use Change research. Support also is provided to other USGS mission areas as resources permit. Sample selection and analysis is carried out in close contact with project scientists. Established analytical procedures for radiocarbon dating are carefully applied to every sample the laboratory processes. New methods are developed and tested as necessary to meet specific dating needs and to improve the overall accuracy and precision of the lab.

Why is this research important?

Radiocarbon dating by accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) is an important analytical method utilized in climate change, land use change, ecosystems and natural hazards research. As a chronology tool, 14C dating can provide ages for samples as old as 50,000 years. The small sample size capability of AMS radiocarbon dating greatly expands the potential for dating geologic material previously undateable using older proportional counting methods. The Reston radiocarbon laboratory performs research in the accurate 14C dating of different fractions of carbon that can be isolated from organic compounds such as sediments, soils and peat, which are often difficult to date reliably.

Project Lead: John P. McGeehin
Project Team: Timothy Muzik

Related Projects:
   Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry
   University of Arizona Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Laboratory
   CALIB Radiocarbon Calibration
   Radiocarbon journal
   Helpful information about radiocarbon dating

2 publications matching the specified parameters were found.

Pigati, J.S., McGeehin, J.P., Skipp, G.L., and Muhs, D.R., 2014, Evidence of repeated wildfires prior to human occupation on San Nicolas Island, California: Monographs of the Western North American Naturalist, v. 7, p. 35-47.

Reheis, M.C., Miller, D.M., McGeehin, J.P., Redwine, J.R., Oviatt, C.G., and Bright, J., 2014, Directly dated MIS 3 lake-level record from Lake Manix, Mojave Desert, California, USA: Quaternary Research, v. 83, no. 1, p. 187-203.

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Page Last Modified: Thursday, September 10, 2015