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Carbon dating earthquakes
Until now, however, it has not been possible to analyse samples from deeper than 5,000 metres below the surface, because the mineralised compounds dissolve under increased water pressure.Strasser and his team therefore had to use new methods for their analysis.
They analysed the carbon-rich sediments using radiocarbon dating.
This method - measuring the amount of organic carbon as well as radioactive carbon (14C) in mineralised compounds - has long been a means of determining the age of individual sediment layers.
The resulting sediment layers can thus be used later to glean information about the history of earthquakes and the carbon cycle in the deep ocean.
New dating methods in the deep ocean The current study provided the researchers with a breakthrough.
Because older organic matter contains stronger chemical bonds, it requires higher temperatures to burn.
What makes this method novel is that the relative age variation of the individual temperature fractions between two samples very precisely distinguishes the age difference between sediment levels in the deep sea.
Carbon-14 is continually formed in nature by the interaction of neutrons with nitrogen-14 in the Earth’s atmosphere; the neutrons required for this reaction are produced by cosmic rays interacting with the atmosphere.
Radiocarbon present in molecules of atmospheric carbon dioxide enters the biological carbon cycle: it is absorbed from the air by green plants and then passed on to animals through the food chain.
"With our new methods, we can predict the recurrence of earthquakes with much more accuracy." Through a Deep Carbon Observatory collaboration, researchers are using neutrons to study the fundamental role carbon dioxide plays in Earth’s carbon cycle, especially in the composition of carbon ...
Understanding the role of freshwater lakes and reservoirs in the global carbon cycle is the focus of ongoing research.