Coal and oil contain far less carbon-14 than is contained in the CO2 produced by life today
Researchers have demonstrated a way of distinguishing between carbon dioxide in the air coming from fossil fuel burning and that from natural sources.
It measures one type, or isotope, of carbon that decays over time – long since gone from fossil fuels.
As explained in the Journal of Geophysical Research, the method may prove useful in CO2 monitoring efforts.
However, experts say that the approach must be calibrated against existing carbon-measuring techniques.
The research was led by scientists from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Laboratory in the US, who studied six years’ worth of atmospheric sampling data gathered by aircraft over two sites in the northeastern US.
The team focused on the rare isotope carbon-14, which is constantly produced in tiny amounts in the atmosphere when cosmic rays hit…
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