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14C Dating

Annually-laminated marine sediments preserved in-situ for sampling using a freeze corer.

Calibration of the 14C timescale beyond the range of tree ring chronologies is important for determining the relative timing of abrupt climate changes during deglaciation and the last Glacial period. I have focused on producing calibration data sets by 14C dating planktonic foraminifera from sediments of the Cariaco basin off Venezuela. In early work, an annually laminated (varved) sediment sequence (Hughen et al., 1996b) provided high-resolution calibration back to ~15 cal ka, and showed that abrupt deglacial climate shifts were synchronous between the tropical and high-latitude North Atlantic (Hughen et al., 1996a; 1998a; 1998b; 2000; 2004d). More recently, work on non-varved Cariaco sediments has resulted in extended calibrations back to ~50 cal ka (Hughen et al., 2004a; 2006; Heaton et al., 2013). Data from Cariaco basin records have been incorporated into IntCal and Marine 14C calibration data sets since 1998 (Stuiver et al., 1998; Hughen et al., 2004c; Reimer et al., 2004; 2009; 2013). High-resolution Cariaco 14C and paleoclimate data sets have also been used to map 14C-dated fossils and floating tree ring sequences directly into a climatic context, with greater precision than calibration to absolute time scales (Tzedakis et al., 2007; Cooper et al., 2015; Turney et al., 2010; 2015; 2016; in review).


Funding provided by:

NSF ATM (ESH) OCE (ESH) OCE (core), WHOI Internal awards and Academic Programs, NOSAMS, Leverhulme Trust



  • Paula Reimer, Belfast U., UK
  • John Southon, U of California, Irvine
  • Christopher Bronk-Ramsey, Oxford U., UK
  • Chris Turney, U. New South Wales, AUS
  • Alan Cooper, U. Adelaide, AUS

Relevant Publications

  • Turney, C.S.M., Jones, R.T., Phipps, S.J., Thomas, Z., Hogg, A., Kershaw, A.P., Fogwill, C.J., Palmer, J., Ramsey, C.B., Adolphi, F., Muscheler, R., Hughen, K.A., Staff, R.A., Grosvenor, M., Golledge, N.R., Rasmussen, S.O., Hutchinson, S.K., Haberle, S., Lorrey, A., Boswijk, G., Cooper, A., Rapid global ocean-atmosphere response to Southern Ocean freshening during the last glacial, Nat. Comm. (submitted).
  • Hogg, A., Southon, J., Turney, C., Palmer, J., Ramsey, C., Fenwick, P., Boswijk, G., Buntgen, U., Friedrich, M., Helle, G., Hughen, K., Jones, R., Kromer, B., Noronha, A., Reinig, F., Reynard, L., Staff, R., Wacker, L., 2016, Decadally Resolved Late Glacial Radiocarbon Evidence from New Zealand Kauri, Radiocarbon 58, 709-733, DOI:10.1017/RDC.2016.86
  • Cooper, A., Turney, C., Hughen, K., 2016, Response to Comment on “Abrupt warming events drove Late Pleistocene Holarctic megafaunal turnover”, Science, 10.1126/science.aad8016.
  • Turney, C.S.M., Palmer, J., Bronk Ramsey, C., Adolphi, F., Muscheler, R., Hughen, K.A., Staff, R.A., Jones, R.T., Thomas, Z., Fogwill, C.J., Hogg, A., 2016, High-precision dating and correlation of ice, marine and terrestrial sequences spanning Heinrich 3: Testing mechanisms of synchronous interhemispheric change using New Zealand ancient kauri (Agathis australis). Quaternary Science Reviews, doi: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2016.02.005.
  • Hogg, A., Southon, J., Turney, C., Palmer, J., Ramsey, C., Fenwick, P., Boswijk, G., Friedrich, M., Helle, G., Hughen, K., Jones, R., Kromer, B., Noronha, A., Reynard, L., Staff, R., Wacker, L., 2016. Punctuated Shutdown of Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation during Greenland Stadial 1, Nature Scientific Reports 6, 25902, doi:10.1038/srep25902
  • Turney, C., Thomas, Z., Hutchinson, D., Bradshaw, C., Brook, B., England, M., Fogwill, C., Jones, R., Palmer, J., Hughen, K., Cooper, A., 2015, Obliquity-Driven Expasion Of North Atlantic Sea Ice 31,000 Years Ago, Geophys. Res. Lett. 42, 10,382-10,390.
  • Cooper, A., Turney, C., Hughen, K., Brook, B., McDonald, H., Bradshaw, C., 2015, High-resolution timescale reveals climate-associated megafaunal turnover in Late Pleistocene Eurasia and North America, Science 349, 602-606.
  • Reimer, P.J. (Hughen, K and 25 others), 2013, IntCal13 and Marine13 Radiocarbon Age Calibration Curves, 0-50,000 Years Cal BP, Radiocarbon 55, 1869-1887, doi: 10.2458/azu_js_rc.55.16947.
  • Reimer, P. (Hughen, K., and 24 others), 2013, Selection and treatment of data for radiocarbon calibration: an update to the international calibration (IntCal) criteria, Radiocarbon 55, 1923-1945, doi: 10.2458/azu_js_rc.55.17222.
  • Heaton, T., Bard, E., Hughen, K., 2013, Elastic tiepointing – Transferring chronologies between records via a Gaussian process, Radiocarbon 55, 1975-1997, doi: 10.2458/azu_js_rc.55.17777.
  • Talamo, S., Hughen, K., Kromer, B., Reimer, P., 2012, Debates over Paleolithic Chronology – the Reliability of 14C is Confirmed, Journal of Archeological Science 39, 2464-2467.
  • Turney, C., Fifield, L.K., Hogg, A., Palmer, J., Hughen, K., Baillie, M., Galbraith, R., Ogden, J., Lorrey, A., Tims, S., Jones, R., 2010, Using New Zealand Kauri (Agathis australis) to Test Synchronicity of Abrupt Climate Change during the Last Glacial Interval (60,000 to 11,000 years ago), Quaternary Science Reviews 29, 3677-3682.
  • Santos, G.M., Southon, J.R., Drenzek, N.J., Ziolkowski, L.A., Druffel, E., Xu, X., Zhan, D., Trumbore, S., Eglinton, T.I., Hughen, K.A., 2010, Blank assessment for ultra-small samples: chemical extraction and separation vs. AMS, Radiocarbon 52(3), 1322-1335.
  • Reimer, P., Hughen, K., 2008, Tree rings floating on ice cores, Nature Geoscience 1, 218-219, doi: 10.1038/ngeo167, News and Views.
  • Tzedakis, P. C., Hughen, K. A., Cacho, I., K. Harvati, K., 2007, Placing late Neanderthals in a climatic context, Nature 449, 206-208, doi:10.1038/nature06117.
  • Hughen, K.A., 2007, Radiocarbon Dating of Deep-Sea Sediments, In: Paleoceanography of the Late Cenozoic Volume 1: Methods, Eds., Claude Hillaire-Marcel C. & Anne de Vernal, A., Elsevier.
  • Hughen, K.A., Southon, J.A., Lehman, S.J., Bertrand, C.J.H., Turnbull, J., 2006, Marine-Derived 14C Calibration and Activity Record for the past 50,000 Years Updated from the Cariaco Basin, Quaternary Science Reviews 25, 3216-3227.
  • Hughen, K.A., Lehman, S.J. Southon, J., Overpeck, J.T., Marchal, O., Herring, C., Turnbull, J. 2004, 14C Activity and Global Carbon Cycle Changes Over the Past 50,000 years, Science 303, 202-207.
  • Reimer, P.J. et al. (Hughen, K.A. and 26 others), 2004, INTCAL04 Terrestrial Radiocarbon Age Calibration, 26-0 ka BP, Radiocarbon 46, 1029-1058.
  • Hughen, K.A. et al. (Reimer, P.J. and 25 others), 2004, MARINE04 Marine Radiocarbon Age Calibration, 26-0 ka BP, Radiocarbon 46, 1059-1086.
  • Van der Plicht et al. (Hughen, K.A., and 17 others), 2004, NotCal04—Comparison/Calibration 14C Records 26–50 cal kyr BP, Radiocarbon 46, 1225-1238.
  • Hughen, K.A., Southon, J.R., Bertrand, C., Frantz, B., Zermeno, P., 2004, Cariaco Basin Calibration Update: Revisions to Calendar and 14C Chronologies for Core PL07-58PC, Radiocarbon 46, 1161-1188.
  • Kromer, B., Friedrich, M., Hughen, K.A., Kaiser, K.F., Remmele, S., Schaub, M., Talamo, S., 2004, Late Glacial 14C ages from a Floating 1270-Ring Pine Chronology, Radiocarbon 46, 1203-1210.
  • Friedrich, M., Kromer, B., Kaiser, K.F., Spurk, M., Hughen, K.A., Johnsen, S.J., 2001, High-resolution Climate Signals in the Bolling-Allerod Interstadial (Greenland Interstadial 1) as Reflected in European Tree-ring Chronologies Compared to Marine Varves and Ice-core Records, Quaternary Science Reviews 20, 1223-1232.
  • Hughen, K.A., Southon, J.R., Lehman, S.J., Overpeck, J.T., 2000, Synchronous Radiocarbon and Climate Shifts During the Last Deglaciation, Science 290, 1951-1954.
  • Stuiver, M., Reimer, P.J., Bard, E., Beck, J.W., Burr, G.S., Hughen, K.A., Kromer, B., McCormac, G., van der Plicht, J., Spurk, M., 1998, INTCAL98 Radiocarbon Age Calibration, Radiocarbon 40, 1041-1083.
  • Hughen, K.A., Overpeck, J.T., Lehman, S.J., Kashgarian, M., Southon, J., Peterson, L.C., Alley, R., Sigman, D.M., 1998, Deglacial changes in ocean circulation from an extended radiocarbon calibration, Nature 391, 65-68.
  • Hughen, K.A., Overpeck, J.T., Lehman, S.J., Southon, J., Kashgarian, M., Peterson, L.C., 1998, A new 14C calibration for the last deglaciation, Radiocarbon 39, 483-494.