Tree-rings reveal secret clocks that could reset key dates across the ancient world

​ ​Trees which grew during intense radiation bursts in the past have ‘time-markers’ in their tree-rings that could help archaeologists date events from thousands of years ago

Oxford University researchers say that trees which grew during intense radiation bursts in the past have ‘time-markers’ in their tree-rings that could help archaeologists date events from thousands of years ago. In a new paper, the authors explain how harvesting such data could revolutionise the study of ancient civilisations such as the Egyptian and Mayan worlds. Until now scholars have had only vague evidence for dating when events happened during the earliest periods of civilisation, with estimates being within hundreds of years. However, the unusually high levels of the radioactive isotope carbon-14 found in tree-rings laid down during the radiation bursts could help reliably pinpoint dates. The distinct spikes act as time-markers like secret clocks contained in timber, papyri, baskets made from living plants or other organic materials, says the paper published in the Royal Society Journal Proceedings A.

Scholars believe that intense solar storms caused major bursts of radiation to strike the Earth in 775 and 994AD, which resulted in distinct spikes in the concentration of radiocarbon in trees growing at that time. The events are precisely datable because the tree-rings belong to archives in which the growth year of each tree-ring is exactly known. In the new research, the authors outline how they could detect similar spikes elsewhere within the thousands of years of available tree-ring material from across the world. They say even a handful of these time-markers could allow them to piece together a reliable dating framework for important civilisations. The crucial point is that the time-markers will also be present in every living plant or tree that grew at the time of a radiation surge, including in the timber used in ancient buildings or other artefacts fashioned from the plants. The paper suggests that the existing tree-ring data are likely to reveal other radiocarbon surges in particular years. The problem, however, is that the tree-ring data is only available in blocks of decades rather than year by year. The paper proposes a cutting-edge mathematical method to filter out particular years within such a block when ‘change points’ in radiocarbon levels occurred. It also adds that it is currently unclear how regularly the Earth has been hit by such intense bursts of radiation, and what the precise magnitude of the events might have been so finding new spikes will also help us understand past solar activity.

Currently, archaeologists have to rely on relatively sparse evidence for dating the history of Western civilisation before 763 BCE, with Chinese history also only widely agreed from 841 BCE. For example, they depend on ancient records of rare astronomical phenomena, such as the solar eclipse during the ninth year of Ashur Dan III of Assyria, to determine the age of historical events. In the absence of such records, standard radiocarbon measurements provide the best estimates, but these are still often only accurate to within 200 to 300 calendar years. If the radiocarbon spikes in the tree-ring data were also found in archaeological items attributable to specific historical periods, the information could be used to anchor exactly when events occurred, says the paper.

Lead author Dr Michael Dee, from the School of Archaeology at the University of Oxford, said: ‘Variations in atmospheric radiocarbon concentration are largely the result of carbon dioxide emissions from activity from volcanoes and the ocean, but they are also influenced by changes in solar activity. The spikes in 775 and 994AD were almost vertical and of comparable magnitude all around the Earth. Such markers can be easily identified in known-age tree-rings and are fixed in time. In the past, we have had floating estimates of when things may have happened, but these secret clocks could reset chronologies concerning important world civilisations with the potential to date events that happened many thousands of years ago to the exact year.’

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The paper, ‘Anchoring historical sequences using a new source of astro-chronological tie-points’, is published in the journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society A.

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92 thoughts on “Tree-rings reveal secret clocks that could reset key dates across the ancient world

  1. Sorry but WolfRayet 104-style GRB’sare the only thing I imagine as “intense radiation bursts” for us here with our ozone layer, solar wind magnetic shield and earthly magnetic shield protecting us from sol.

    WR104 at 7500 ly and apparently axially aligned with our solar system is one that could change the biosphere in a few minutes. Half the Earth (pointj g toward the event) would suffer immediate consequences. The other half would get the suffering over years.

    • For example, this paper below posits the 775 AD event to a nearby GRB:

      http://m.mnras.oxfordjournals.org/content/430/1/32.full
      (free access)

      Abstract

      In the last 3000 yr, one significant and rapid increase in the concentration of 14C in tree rings was observed; it corresponds to a γ-ray energy input of 7 × 1024 erg at Earth within up to one year in AD 774/5. A normal supernova and a solar or stellar flare are unlikely as cause, so that the source remained unknown. Here, we show that a short gamma-ray burst (GRB) in our Galaxy is consistent with all observables: such an event is sufficiently short and provides the necessary energy in the relevant spectral range of γ-rays. Its spectral hardness is consistent with the differential production rates of 14C and 10Be as observed. The absence of reports about a historic sighting of a supernova in AD 774/5 or a present-day supernova remnant is also consistent with a short GRB. We estimate the distance towards this short GRB to be ∼1–4 kpc – sufficiently far away, so that no extinction event on Earth was triggered. This is the first evidence for a short GRB in our Galaxy.

      • The cyclic changes to C14 in the paleo record are caused when the solar magnetic cycle restarts. The sun and stars are significantly different than the standard model.

        The cyclic change to the sun (an interruption to the solar magnetic cycle) is the cause of cyclic abrupt changes to the geomagnetic field (abrupt changes to the tilt of the geomagnetic field and abrupt changes to the strength of the geomagnetic field) which causes changes to C14 in the atmosphere.

        The geomagnetic specialists have spent the last 20 years confirming the observational fact that the geomagnetic field changes abruptly and cyclically with the changes correlating in time with abrupt climate change, including the initiation and termination of the interglacial periods. The geomagnetic field intensity is a factor of three to five times stronger during the interglacial periods.

        The paradox is there is no mechanism to cause the geomagnetic field to abruptly and cyclically change, as there is no mechanism that can cause cyclic and abrupt changes to liquid flow in the earth’s core and due to the fact that a back emf is generated which limits the maximum change in the geomagnetic field if the change to the geomagnetic field has due to liquid core changes.

        http://gji.oxfordjournals.org/content/140/1/F1.full.pdf

        Is the geodynamo process intrinsically unstable?
        Recent palaeomagnetic studies suggest that excursions of the geomagnetic field, during which the intensity drops suddenly by a factor of 5 to 10 and the local direction changes dramatically, are more common than previously expected. The `normal’ state of the geomagnetic field, dominated by an axial dipole, seems to be interrupted every 30 to 100 kyr; it may not therefore be as stable as we thought.

        http://geosci.uchicago.edu/~rtp1/BardPapers/responseCourtillotEPSL07.pdf

        Response to Comment on “Are there connections between Earth’s magnetic field and climate?, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 253, 328-339, 2007

        Also, we wish to recall that evidence of a correlation between archeomagnetic jerks and cooling events (in a region extending from the eastern North Atlantic to the Middle East) now covers a period of 5 millenia and involves 10 events (see f.i. Figure 1 of Gallet and Genevey, 2007). The climatic record uses a combination of results from Bond et al (2001), history of Swiss glaciers (Holzhauser et al, 2005) and historical accounts reviewed by Le Roy Ladurie (2004). Recent high-resolution paleomagnetic records (e.g. Snowball and Sandgren, 2004; St-Onge et al., 2003) and global geomagnetic field modeling (Korte and Constable, 2006) support the idea that part of the centennial-scale fluctuations in 14C production may have been influenced by previously unmodeled rapid dipole field variations. In any case, the relationship between climate, the Sun and the geomagnetic field could be more complex than previously imagined. And the previous points allow the possibility for some connection between the geomagnetic field and climate over these time scales.

        There are more than 200 astronomical (the solar convection motion paradox, the large scale cosmic structure paradox, the spiral galaxy rotational paradox (the rotational speed of spiral galaxies increases monotonically with the mass of the galaxy, if galaxies grew by hierarchical mergers the range of spiral galaxy rotational velocity would fall along a bell curve, not increase monotonically with galaxy mass, explain the existence of bulge less spiral galaxies, explain the structured clusters of quasars, explain the paradox of youth stars in the center of our galaxy, explain the magnetic field anomaly of Neptune and Uranus, and so on), paleo climatic, and geomagnetic paradoxes and anomalies (all of the observations in question are in peer reviewed papers, the papers explain why the specific observation is a paradox) that are related to/explained by how the sun and stars are significantly different than the standard stellar model.

        Solar Convection Zone Paradox (this is a big deal, as it supports the assertion the sun is significantly different than the standard model)

        Motion in the solar convection zone has been found to be a hundred times smaller than expected based on the standard solar model. There are multiple paradoxes caused by the finding that the motion in the solar convection zone is a hundred times less than theoretical.

        As the physics of convection and the temperature of the solar surface is known, the implications of the convection motion in the solar convection zone being 100 times smaller, is there is a non convection mechanism (non convection source of energy transfer to the surface of the sun which also explains why the solar coronal is roughly 1 million degrees Celsius when the surface of the sun is 5500 C) which is caused by a non fusion reaction that is transferring energy from the core of the sun to the surface of the sun.

        Coronal holes rotate at the same speed as the solar core which supports the assertion that the cause of coronal holes is something in the solar core. The rotational speed of the surface of the sun is roughly 40% slower at the high latitudes of the sun as compared to the equatorial region of the sun. Sunspots float on the surface of the sun and hence have the same rotational speed as the surface of the sun.

        http://www.mpg.de/5913479/convection_sun_surface

        Unexpectedly slow motions below the Sun’s surface
        New observations of seismic oscillations on the Sun’s surface from NASA’s SDO mission challenge our understanding of interior solar dynamics Gizon says “The unexpectedly small velocities measured using helioseismology are the most noteworthy helioseismology result since the launch of HMI”. Adds Birch, “There is no clear way to reconcile the observations and theory”. Gizon then concludes “This result not only sheds a new light on the Sun – but also on our current inability to understand one of the most fundamental physical processes in the Sun and stars: convection”.

        What stops the solution of holistic physical problems (stops discussion and even knowledge of the ruddy paradoxes by the specialists) is not what we do not know but rather what we think we know which is incorrect. The following are a couple of papers to support my comment that the sun and stars are different.

        http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/0811/0811.1554.pdf

        http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v455/n7216/abs/nature07366.html

        “Galaxies appear simpler than expected
        Galaxies are complex systems the evolution of which apparently results from the interplay of dynamics… …The hierarchical theory of galaxy formation holds that galaxies are assembled from smaller pieces, through numerous mergers of cold dark matter2,3,4. The properties of an individual galaxy should be controlled by six independent parameters including mass, angular-momentum, baryon-fraction, age and size, as well as by the accidents of its recent haphazard merger history. Here we report that a sample of galaxies that were first detected through their neutral hydrogen radio-frequency emission, and are thus free of optical selection effects5, shows five independent correlations among six independent observables, despite having a ….

        … This implies that the structure of these galaxies must be controlled by a single parameter, although we cannot identify this parameter from our dataset. Such a degree of organization appears to be at odds with hierarchical galaxy formation, a central tenet of the cold dark matter paradigm in cosmology6.

        …Consider spin alone, which is thought to be the result of early tidal torquing. Simulations produce spins, independent of mass, with a log-normal distribution. Higher-spin discs naturally cannot contract as far; thus, to a much greater extent than for low-spin discs, their dynamics is controlled by their dark halos, so it is unexpected to see the nearly constant dynamical-mass/luminosity ratio that we and others14 actually observe. Heirarchical galaxy formation simply does not fit the constraints set by the correlation structure in the Equatorial Survey.”

        http://arxiv.org/abs/1009.3015

        BULGELESS GIANT GALAXIES CHALLENGE OUR PICTURE OF GALAXY FORMATION
        BY HIERARCHICAL CLUSTERING

        http://arxiv.org/abs/1005.0385v2

        Our Milky Way as a Pure-Disk Galaxy — A Challenge for Galaxy Formation

        We use the new kinematic constraints to show that any classical bulge contribution cannot be larger than _ 8% of the disk mass. Thus the Galactic bulge is a part of the disk and not a separate component made in a prior merger. Giant, pure-disk galaxies like our own present a major challenge to the standard picture in which galaxy formation is dominated by hierarchical clustering and galaxy mergers

        http://www.pik-potsdam.de/~stefan/Publications/Journals/rahmstorf_grl_2003.pdf

        Timing of abrupt climate change: A precise clock by Stefan Rahmstorf
        Many paleoclimatic data reveal a _1,500 year cyclicity of unknown origin. A crucial question is how stable and regular this cycle is. An analysis of the GISP2 ice core record from Greenland reveals that abrupt climate events appear to be paced by a 1,470-year cycle with a period that is probably stable to within a few percent; with 95% confidence the period is maintained to better than 12% over at least 23 cycles. This highly precise clock points to an origin outside the Earth system (William: Come on man, its the sun); oscillatory modes within the Earth system can be expected to be far more irregular in period.

  2. I wonder if the same Carbon 14 trick [spikes in the C14 caused by large solar storm activity] could be used to date any coal deposits. Now THAT would ‘set the clock back’ a few hundred thousand years!

    • Carbon-14 half-life is 5730 yrs. beyond 10 half-lifes they signal is hopelessly lost in the noise, with measurements at that range having huge uncertainties. Realistically, it is even shorter than 10 x 5730 yrs = 57kyrs, but more like 30 kyrs due to uncertainties in how much C-14 is generated by one-off events.

      coal beds were laid down many 10’s of million years ago by ancient buried forests. And biological photosythesis prefers C-12 with residuals of C-13. So coal is all C-12, miniscule amounts of C-13 and zero C-14. In fact denatured ethanol from fossil fuels will get you intoxicated just as C-14 bearing grain ethanol beverages will but without the C-14 background. With grain alcoholic beverages you get your dose of radiation from C-14 to boot. As you do with all food.

      • Joelobryan stated that, “Coal beds were laid down many 10’s of million years ago by ancient buried forests”

        Not that long ago, really! The 1300 M. thick mat of ancient super-forest material of giant trees & plants with huge leaves and branches as found in fossil form, was reduced to a mere 10 % thickness in the 130 M. thick Singrauli (Jhingurda) coal seam in India for example, about 4.400 years ago by the immesne pressure of freshly dumped rock strata on top of them, in the space of merely one year, when very hot, super-critical water plasma under immense pressure below the then still pristine unbroken crust of the Earth, pierced through a hairline of weakness, and cracked & ripped open continuous fault-lines across the globe, returning back onto themselves. That super-hot super-critical water then shot out with a power like trillions of nuclear explosions into powerful devastating fountains that eroded the cracks, and flooded the entire globe in about 40 days.

        This global Flood was recorded & documented in a collection of by now 700+ narratives (although embellished & mangled by thousands of years re-telling) from every tribe, ethnic group, nation, and all ancient civilisations like Sumeria, Egypt, Greece, China, India, South America, etc! Many talked about the 10 Pre Flood Kings (like the Sumerian Kings list!) and most talked about the 8 Flood survivors!
        Like the Indian Ma-Nu and his 7 Rishis aboard a boat, and Dravidian Satyavratha and his three sons Charma, Sharma, and Yapheti, as the Miao-Zu sang about Nu-Ah and his 3 sons Han, Shen, & Yaphu, and the Hebrews talked abot Noach and sons (C)ham, Shem, and Yapheth, whereas our ancient Chinese legends talk of the 8 (3 August kings plus 5 emperors) preceeded by Flood survivors NuWa & Fuxi who also re-populated the Earth, and Egypt tells of “the eight gods, the Khemenu of On who observed the creation of the sun”, 4 couples that survived on a ship as well. And the legends –not Wicked Pedian “myths” mind you! — lived on and on. Of course also ancient historians like Herodotes corroborated the Flood as historical fact, as did Josephus, who even said the hulk of the ship was still visible in Armenia from where travelers took away “pitch as amulets for good luck.”

        During that pre-Flood era of the 10 Kings (when Pangaea mountains were lower than today so flooding did not have to go as high as some presume) metallurgy was very well developed, as demonstrated in a cog-wheel made of a nifty alloy found in a “300 Million year old” coal layer in Russia, which the ‘Voice of Russia’ therefore immediately labeled as a “300 million year old UFO cogwheel”, prefering to make Neo-Darwinian fools of themselves instead of opening their mind to the many OOPARTS already found in rock- and coal-layers below our feet. For that and other OOPARTS, SEE:
        https://ancientpatriarchs.wordpress.com/2016/03/28/300-ml-year-old-high-tech-pre-flood-tooth-wheel-found-in-4-500-year-old-russian-coal-blamed-on-ufo/

        Anyway, I just present you with a different paradigm to consider, than the one promoted by British bankers and Cecil Rhodes’ Round table and R. Scholars during the 19th and 20th century! Like banker boy John Lubbock, intimate friend of Charles Darwin, who single handedly handicapped history science with the horrible periodisation of ‘rough flint’ Paleolithic, and ‘smooth flint’ Neolithic, whereas the real periodisation should have been Pre-Flood, and the Post-Flood’s Megalithic Era when Pelasgians, Formorian descendents of (C)ham, and Atlanteans of King Atlas the star mapper, Sidon (Poseidon), Naptuhim (Neptune), all sailed and mapped the entire globe as Earth’s measurements (and Pi !) were after all already then eternalised into the very dimensions of the Great Pyramid of Gizah built around 4200 years ago!
        SEE: https://ancientpatriarchs.wordpress.com/2016/04/05/19-century-banker-lubbock-crippled-ancient-history-science-as-darwinian-paleo-stone-age-why-not-mega-stone-age/

        I could go on, but of course, it is very hard to shake the solid Neo Darwinian “foundations” of most intellectuals, as we all were so thoroughly indoctrinated into them by the clever taylors of the Emperor who made us believe that the very fine material for his robe was only visible to smart intellectual people. The little boy was honest and before they could silence him, he cried as loud as he was astonished, “The Emperor is NAKED!”
        https://ancientpatriarchs.wordpress.com/2016/04/07/blind-orthodox-historians-alternative-gatekeepers-refuse-to-see-the-huge-mammoth-in-the-historical-livingroom/
        Have a good day, Gentlemen.
        Lu
        Taiwan

    • Radiocarbon in coal is less common than sabretoothed chickens. The half-life is immensely too short for radiocarbon in even Cenozoic (<70My) coal to register against background radiation. Right now the maximum age C-14 can be used for is about 100,000 years using AMS methods (accelerated mass spectrometry). There are some outstanding cosmological events that affected the planet – one of which seems to have occurred around the time of the Younger Dryas, though this is debated. The problem is that even in Bristle Cone Pines, the continuous tree-ring record only runs back less than 10,000 years (between 8,000 and 9,000 IIRC). There are some tree ring series from the Pleistocene that may reach much farther, but they are floating series and have yet to be tied in to any fixed date.

      • joelobryan August 16, 2016 at 5:56 pm
        “So coal is all C-12, miniscule amounts of C-13 and zero C-14.”

        Duster August 16, 2016 at 9:00 pm
        “Radiocarbon in coal is less common than sabretoothed chickens.”

        Actually, 14C has always been found in coal mined from even the deepest beds. Attempts to explain away the 14C in coal remind me of the attempts to explain away “the pause”

        Just one reference:
        https://journals.uair.arizona.edu/index.php/radiocarbon/article/view/1127/1132
        “Because coal is formed over geological time scales at depths providing
        excellent shielding from cosmic rays, its 14C content should be insignificant
        in comparison to the 14C introduced by even the most careful sample preparation
        techniques used in 14C dating laboratories. How is it then, that a material, which should show a 14C age indistinguishable from that produced by a combination of machine background and contamination during careful sample preparation, routinely produces a finite 14C age? ”

        SR

      • @steve reddish.

        Coal also contains radioactive materials like uranium. Deep Underground may be shielded from Cosmic Rays, but its not a radiation free zone.

      • The lower energy rays released by radioactive decay are much less penetrating than the cosmic rays. That higher energy is required to induce the nuclear reactions that yield C14.

      • Marc

        Surface water only reaches near-surface coal. The issue being discussed is deep coal beds. You sound like the anti-frackers. You prove my point about weak disclaimers.

        SR

      • Duster August 16, 2016 at 9:00 pm
        “the continuous tree-ring record only runs back less than 10,000 years (between 8,000 and 9,000 IIRC). There are some tree ring series from the Pleistocene that may reach much farther, but they are floating series and have yet to be tied in to any fixed date.”

        Even continuous tree-ring records judged to be dated pre-AD were floating series that were linked merely by highest probability that were not high at all. Very limited sample quantities at multiple critical points make those series just guesses.

        SR

      • Well earth’s atmosphere does not stop ALL radiation species, so there are plenty of gremlins going right through the planet that could form 14C in already existing coal deposits (continuously).

        g

      • Although 14C is formed directly from cosmic ray reactions in meteorites and on the lunar surface, 14C is formed in the atmosphere by different and more efficient processes. Atmospheric 14C is mainly made by lower energy reactions on nitrogen and oxygen via energetic (few MeV) neutrons. Such neutrons are also produced underground by e.g. U and Th decay.

  3. Seems like this is old news.

    Early Radio-carbon dating was predicated on a belief that 14C was formed at a constant rate in the atmosphere.

    Dating each ring of Bristle Cone pines in The White Mountains upset that apple cart, and forced revision of global histories.

    In particular it was proved that pottery technology that was believed to have travelled from Mesopotamia, to Spain, actually originated in Spain and went the other direction.

    G

    • The “old” news is that radiocarbon (C14) in the atmosphere varies from year to year. The known causes are volcanoes (and nuclear bombs).

      What is unstated in the blog post is why an extra-terrestrial source of radiocarbon variation is better than a terrestrial one.

      I know with volcanoes prior to 600 or 700 BCE, they don’t know well what year they happened. Is it that this new source is better tied to a specific year?

      A prime example of why this is relevant is authenticating the bible’s old testament as accurately describing verifiable events. Jericho for instance did experience a massive fire and the walls collapsed as described in Joshua (a book of the bible). The old testament dates it around 1453 BCE (as I recall, but it is a specific year for sure). Radiocarbon dating currently dates it around 1800 BCE (as I recall).

      That disagreement is a major reason historians state that the book of Joshua doesn’t describe historical events at all. But, there is a group of Egyptologists that believe the whole radiocarbon timeline is off by several hundred years at the time Jericho burned. They argue the radiocarbon dateline for that time should be moved forward several hundred years. If that happens, radiocarbon dating and the book of Joshua would come into alignment timewise.

      • Radiocarbon “secular variation” is little affected by volcanos. C-14 is an extreme trace within a trace. The most likely cause of secular variation is thunderstorm activity. Lightening can generate gamma radiation strong enough to trigger C-14 production (http://phys.org/news/2009-12-lightning-produced-potential-health-air.html). Added to the relatively stable production from cosmic radiation that should produce the generally stable ratio we see in the field. Biggest mysteries in C-14 dating are related to abrupt production spikes that affect apparent age as estimated from C-14 concentration. These spikes can “collapse” age differences and potentially even invert them under the wrong circumstances. That’s why most labs used a calibration system to estimate radiocarbon ages.

      • Another known case is cosmic rays. They can dissociate a neutron from nitrogen and whoop it into a 13C molecule creating 14C. This effect is currently negligible, but since we are naked apes, we can’t rule out the possibility that cosmic rays got really wild from time to time, especially since several lines of evidence point this way. Not to mention that there is no end of other weird stuff we can’t explain.

        Cosmic rays themselves can be any manner of starstuff from protons to electrons and…

      • The book of Joshua does not give a date at all. The idea that you could get a specific number out of it is *seriously* weird. Mike Baillie suggests a date of 1628BC for the Exodus based on tree-ring data indicating some sort of environmental upset. On his view the recently-traditional date of about 1000BC for David is about 200 years out.

        When I was doing my MSc there was another student in the same department doing hers on radioisotope dating of a large volcano in the local harbour called Rangitoto. It’s years since I read her thesis, but as I recall it the problem was that the different dating methods that disagreed by hundreds of years, and few if any of them agreed with dates obtained from local tribes who’d witnessed the eruption. Ever since then I’ve been wary of claims about the precision of radioisotope dating. (Not the physics! The assumptions and the lab work.)

      • Bible dating usually is by first finding events in the Bible that we have outside confirmation for the date, and then using chronologies to try and count forward or backward from that date.

      • Richard A. O’Keefe

        Your 2nd paragraph is at odds with your 1st ??

        MarkW

        The Bible has internally consistent chronologies that have been repeatedly proven accurate over “outside” dating methods.

        SR

      • 14C is routinely formed from atmospheric nitrogen by extra-terrestrial radiation, and those radiations are not constant.

        The bomb test era is just a flash in the pan effect. And the amount of that is fairly well known since most N-tests stopped years ago.

        There’s nothing at all new in this announcement.

        G

        And I gave you the source of the studies that resulted in linearizing the 14 C time scale over at least the last 5,000 years of known Bristlecone pine ages, simply by radio-dating each individual ring.

      • 1 Kings 6:1

        “It was in midspring, in the month of Ziv, during the fourth year of Solomon’s reign, that he began to construct the Temple of the LORD. This was 480 years after the people of Israel were rescued from their slavery in the land of Egypt.”

        There is extra-biblical evidence that Solomon’s temple started construction in 966BC

        So 966-480+40 (years in the wilderness) => 1406BC for crossing the Jordan into the promised land.

        Then the bible (in Joshua) says they immediately went to Jericho and God destroyed the city walls for them, so we have a precise year for the date of the collapse of Jericho per the bible.

        Current radiocarbon dating says Jericho’s collapse happened closer to 1800BC, but the radiocarbon wiggle fitting mechanism isn’t inherently calibrated. You can just say this set of tree rings is from the same dates as this set of tree rings, but it is difficult to know when those trees grew.

        The best they have today is to calibrated the wiggle curves to “known” dates. The best chronology we have that far back is Egyptian chronology, but what if it’s wrong? (as some Egyptologists believe).

        A scientific approach to calibrating the carbon dating wiggle curves without the involvement of Egyptologists would be great.

    • That the background C-14 level varies is old news. This article is about a method to pick out identifiable changes that can be used to tie together tree ring datings from around the world in order to better date past events.

  4. A perfect example of an elegant method hiding in plain sight. And as long as we keep looking, we’ll keep finding.

  5. If you know when the energy event occurred (when the spike started), and can see when it essentially is over, wouldn’t that allow you to accurately estimate the so-called CO2 atmospheric lifetime? I have never bought that CO2 has a long average lifetime, and as the world greens I expect that lifetime is reduced due to a higher turnover rate. Models all seem to use a high value – I have heard of estimates over 100 years. I would be surprised if it were much over 20 to 30 years.

    • This may be what you’re looking for:

      https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Radiocarbon_bomb_spike.svg

      We know exactly when the bombs went off. We know when the atomic bomb test ban went into effect. It took about 20 years after the ban started for half of that newly formed C14 to be absorbed by the oceans / vegetation.

      Why that graph doesn’t allow for the halftime of CO2 added to the atmosphere not to be known, I don’t know.

      • The northern hemisphere 14C peak is 1963. In 1973 the plot is reduced by 1/2, so that’s 10 years. The southern hemisphere peak is 1965, and the 1/2 point occurs in 1976, that’s 11 years. The curves line up around 1968, from that 1968 value the 1/2 point is reached in 1980, that’s 12 years.

        14CO2 is a perfect chemical tracer for all CO2. Because it is CO2.
        Any CO2 added to the atmosphere is permanently removed in 12 years. So, 1/2 of all atmospheric CO2 in the year 2004 has moved into very deep sinks that have essentially no exchange with the atmosphere.

    • Robert:

      There is a big difference between the lifetime of an individual CO2 molecule in the atmosphere and the lifetime of a “level” of CO2.

      For the first, we have good observational evidence from the reduction of 14C-based CO2 in the atmosphere since the end of atmospheric nuclear testing about 50 years ago, and this is short – less than 10 years IIRC.

      For the second, estimates are based largely on modeling, and so a lot less certain — many estimates vary by over an order of magnitude. We would expect it to be significantly longer than the first because of the constant exchange that goes on between the atmosphere and the much larger reservoirs of the biosphere and oceans. But how much longer?

    • RoT the halflife of individual molecules is not the same as half life of the total atmospheric CO2 because of the net carbon cycle. Bern model is wrong, true. Best current estimates for total CO2 halflife are 50-70 years.

      • ristvan
        August 17, 2016 at 8:02 am

        RoT the halflife of individual molecules is not the same as half life of the total atmospheric CO2 because of the net carbon cycle. Bern model is wrong, true. Best current estimates for total CO2 halflife are 50-70 years.
        ————————-
        Hello ristvan.

        You are not thinking there, and that leads you to an unjustifiable and arbitrary hand-waving.

        You see, this “secret clocks that could reset key dates across the ancient world” that archaeology is counting on, would not even exist if the CO2 residence time in atmosphere was not very short indeed.

        This spikes of C14 in the concentration found in trees would not exist even if half time residence of CO2 was 20-30 years as suggested above….

        It will require a huge amount of burst of C14 for a duration much longer than that of the radiation burst that causes it in first place …. Such spikes would not had any chance of been registered there……

        Besides, think why no any CO2 concentration increase detected in the previous significant warming periods during the last 7 millennia! Or why there is no any detectable increase of CO2 concentration during the warming trend from the depth of LIA to ~1850!
        And that is not about C14 ristvan…..
        Could it not be that the simplest explanation is the very short indeed residence time of CO2 in the atmosphere!

        So there is another pointer showing up and supporting a very short residence time of CO2 and you hand-wave at it! Strange!

        cheers

    • Robert,

      There is indeed a big difference between “residence time” of any individual CO2 molecule in the atmosphere and the “decay rate” of any big spike of extra CO2 – as mass – above the ocean-atmosphere equilibrium (per Henry’s law).

      The first is easy to understand: about 20% of all CO2 in the atmosphere is exchanged with CO2 of the oceans and vegetation, mainly over the seasons. That does a lot of exchange back and forth, but that doesn’t change the total mass of CO2 in the atmosphere with one gram, as long as inputs and outputs are equal…
      Formula: total mass in the atmosphere / exchange rate or:
      800 GtC / 150 GtC/year = 5.33 year
      Several different investigations find residence times between 4-15 years, most around 5 years,

      Every physical or chemical process that is disturbed will change its behavior in a way that tries to counter the disturbance. That is Le Châtelier’s Principle. If you add a lot of CO2 to the atmosphere, the partial pressure increases and the balance between CO2 going into the atmosphere (from upwelling deep ocean waters) and CO2 absorbed by sinking waters near the poles will change: less release near the equator, more absorption near the poles (and in plants). The current unbalance is ~4.6 GtC/year (2.15 ppmv/year) more sink than source while the increased pressure in the atmosphere above (dynamic) equilibrium for the average sea surface temperature is ~110 ppmv.
      Formula: disturbance / resulting effect = e-fold decay rate or:
      110 ppmv / 2.15 ppmv/year = ~51 years.

      That means that the decay rate of an extra shot CO2 mass (whatever isotope) is 10 times slower than the decay rate of an extra shot of individual CO2 molecules from a single isotope like 14C without influence on the total mass (some 10^-22 against 12C). 14C is simply redistributed over vegetation and the oceans, with an extra problem: what goes into the deep oceans only will return over ~1000 years, while what returns today is the isotopic composition of ~1000 years ago, long before any bomb experiments, even mixed with the rest of the deep ocean masses. That makes that in 1960 some 97% of all absorbed 12CO2 returned from the deep oceans, but only 45% of 14CO2 that was absorbed in the same year. Which makes that the decay rate of the 14C spike is at least 3 times faster than of a 12CO2 spike. Thus while 14C is an interesting tracer, it says next to nothing about the decay rates of an extra 12CO2 mass spike in the atmosphere…

      • Biological processes on the organism or ecosystem scale do not follow Le Châtelier’s Principle. Therefore, the global fluxes of CO2 from surface or ocean biology to/from the atmosphere do not follow Le Châtelier’s Principle.
        Adding or removing ppm from different pool sizes is not a valid operation, you need to use total mass units, such as gigatonnes or petagrams.
        The chemical behavior of 14CO2 is identical to 12CO2 or 13CO2. Henry’s Law is the same for 14CO2 as any other CO2, at least on the macro scale.
        The removal of 14CO2 from the atmosphere has no isotopic selection process relative to 12CO2 or 13CO2, therefore the removal of all CO2 from the atmosphere exactly matches the 14CO2 reduction curve since 1964, period. That means the loss of CO2 from the atmosphere into ground sinks on any time scale is about 50 percent in 10 to 12 years, which is the same as saying the “e-fold” time of CO2 is 18 to 20 years years. CO2 never accumulates in the atmosphere, at any time scale.
        Most of the current CO2 imbalance is due to global scale destruction of very old natural biological sinks.

      • bw,

        The main fluxes between ocean surface and atmosphere are largely following Henry’s law for over 800,000 years. On local scale, biological processes in the surface show a huge role, but on global scale, the CO2 solubility in seawater is dominant.
        We have quite good CO2 data over the past 55+ years, which show the net sink rate vs. the increase in the atmosphere. These show a surprisingly linear response of the net sink rate with the increasing CO2 pressure above the steady state for the average ocean surface temperature, that is Le Châtelier’s Principle at work in full glory…

        The addition or removal of CO2 to/from the atmosphere by the oceans is a matter of pressure differences, where ppmv ~= μatm partial pressure, not differences in mass.

        Besides some (small) change in isotopic composition at the water-air border (and a much larger biological one in vegetation), that indeed plays little role in the net sink rate of 14CO2 vs. 12CO2. For the biosphere and the ocean surface layer, the distribution of 14CO2 and 12CO2 is about the same and we can expect that in 1960 the extra 14CO2 from the atmospheric bomb tests was fully distributed over atmosphere, ocean surface layer and biosphere (for the seasonal exchanges in mass).

        Not so for the deep oceans. As said before: what goes into the deep oceans is the isotopic composition of the atmosphere today (minus the isotopic shift), what comes out is the isotopic composition of ~1,000 years ago (minus the isotopic shift), which is completely free of the extra 14CO2 from the bomb tests. That makes that the reduction in 14CO2 is much faster than of 12CO2, as nearly as much 12CO2 is coming out of the deep oceans as is going in, but far less 14CO2.

        Here an overview of the situation in 1960 at the peak of the 14CO2 levels (about twice background):

        CO2 never accumulates in the atmosphere, at any time scale.

        Sorry, that is not what the data say: over glacial – interglacial periods, the changes are extremely slow (~0.03 ppmv/year), so even the slowest process can cope with the speed of change, which simply follows ocean temperatures. Today we are at 110 ppmv above steady state, which gives only ~4.5 GtC/year net sink rate, not enough to remove the ~9 GtC/year human emissions, of which half accumulates as mass in the atmosphere (not the original molecules)…

        Most of the current CO2 imbalance is due to global scale destruction of very old natural biological sinks.

        Again not what the data say: based on the oxygen balance, the biosphere as a whole: (land + sea plants, bacteria, fungi, insects, animals) produces more oxygen than it uses. That includes land use changes by humans. Thus the biosphere as a whole is a net (growing) sink for CO2, not a source…

  6. Seems to me these spikes would throw rad carbon dating off rendering the old methods even worse. Sort of good news bad news.

    • It’s already in the wiggle fitting data, so I don’t see any “bad news”. Mind you, I don’t yet understand the good news.

      • The plus is that all objects growing at the time of the C-14 spike will absorb the extra C-14 and as a result show a spike. By looking for this spike in tree ring records, you can line up the tree ring record with better accuracy. It’s only usefulness is in better dating artifacts

    • It’s always been known that background C-14 levels are not constant. That’s one of the reason’s why they give a range of dates when doing C-14 dating.

      There are standard calibration curves. These are formed by measuring the C-14 of objects which we can figure out the date of, using other techniques. If we know the age, and can measure the current C-14 levels, it’s a simple equation to figure out how much C-14 was in the object to begin with. Not perfect, since environmental factors can impact how much of the available C-14 a particular object absorbs.

  7. I used to be under the impression that atmospheric C14 was constant, since that is an assumption upon which the C14 dating system hinges.

    I now think that C14 concentration in the atmosphere has varied. I am not sufficiently knowledgeable on this subject to go beyond speculation.

    • Atmospheric CO2 can decay by 18-20 ppm in just five months and the variation is not constant over the globe despite claims of it being well mixed.

      In any case atmospheric 14 C depends on nitrogen abundance, and not CO2 abundance.

      But the extra 120 ppm over the “stable” amount of 280 ppm in about seven times five months at that rate, so the 1/e decay time is three years. and 99% will be gone in 15 years.

      G

      • george e. smith:

        Atmospheric CO2 can decay by 18-20 ppm in just five months

        That may be the case local over land, it certainly is not the case in the bulk of the atmosphere (95% of all air mass), where seasonal changes in the NH are +/- 8 ppmv near ground, +/- 4 ppmv at the height of Mauna Loa and +/- 0.5 ppmv at the South Pole.
        Global seasonal change: +/- 2.5 ppmv for ~1 K difference, completely temperature dependent.

        That has zero consequence for the real decay rate, as the seasons are – lucky for us – bidirectional and the net result after a full cycle is near zero.

        The real decay rate is hardly temperature dependent, it is largely pressure (difference) dependent. Currently 110 ppmv (~110 μatm) above dynamic equilibrium with the ocean surface for the current average temperature which gives a net sink rate of only 2.15 ppmv/year or an e-fold decay rate of slightly over 50 years. Comparing the temperature dependent seasonal sink rate which has zero effect over a full cycle with the pressure dependent real sink rate is comparing apples with oranges…

        Another point, 14CO2 is not N2 dependent (about 10^-26 of all N2 is transformed), it is cosmic ray intensity dependent: the collissions between high energy cosmic rays with 14N transforms one proton in a neutron in the kernel which makes it 14C…

        BTW, +/- 2.5 ppmv is less than a few % of full scale, while the total amount going in and out over the seasons is about 20% of all CO2 in the atmosphere. I call that well mixed…

    • Paul there was no scientific basis for the belief that 14 C abundance has always been constant. I already explained up above how the time scale was linearized over the last 5,000 years from dating Bristle cone pine rings one ring at a time, each having a known date.

      It’s old hat.

      G

  8. “Tree-ring data is only available in blocks of decades rather than year by year.” That’s news to me.

  9. Another reinvent the wheel research. This has been known for quite some now too. Along with oceans on Venus and Mars, which they just discovered, which had also been known for awhile. Exactly what are they trying to do?
    Largely from co2 levels??? Really!! Looking at the much vaulted co2 levels and temperature from the IPCC there shouldn’t be any changes at all in co2 levels, should there ? After all, co2 levels didn’t change until man starting releasing the locked up evil co2.
    Trying to spray paint the pony a different color. “Now that’s a horse of a different color. ”
    As far back as I can remember that was one of the ways how solar activity was established. The misguided effort CAGW puts in to try to prove co2 and temperature. Are they just dumb or totally stupid ? Or another paper added to the overwhelming stinking pile of papers on AGW.

    • How the heck did you get CO2 out of this article?
      Proof of oceans on Venus and Mars has been known for some time?
      What’s your source for that claim. Speculation is not proof.

      • Mark W at 6:43 am – it’s clear that some people don’t actually read the articles before making comments. Apparently, being a sceptic/skeptic, is no guarantee that (s)he is capable of digesting more than a handful of words.

      • Evidently smart rock rock and mark w are useful idiots.

        Evidently you guys don’t remember the arguments, and quite lengthy ones, from CAGW how this was bad science and had no meaning. And here they’ve just discovered this? Is this a joke? Let’s revisit the arguments with solar activity and temperatures, particularly during the LIA and MWP.

        After CAGW makes a statement, they go marching off as if they’ve won the debate. Years later, they reopen it with a different spin because basically the arguments aren’t settled.

        They didn’t ” just discovered ” this, it’s been around awhile. Maybe you missed the contradiction in this paper. .. ” largely from co2 levels” … explain that in context of c14 levels during the LIA and MWP periods ? Want to explain how co2 levels varied during those time periods ? That’s the question I asked in the beginning, and still asking now. Do you know what I hear ? Nothing.

  10. Yeah well. The last time somebody tried dating tree rings, we got stuck with a 1 TRILLION dollar bill. And BTW,tree rings grow one for every year,not in decadal blocks, since time immemorial.

    • I’m pretty sure that he was talking about C-14 dating of tree rings is only available for blocks or rings.

      • MarkW is right. You can determine with great accuracy the density of C14 in a single ring, but if you then determine the reverse reverse half-life curve, you have a very, very slowly increasing curve because the half-life of C14 is about 5,000 years.

        If the density of C14 in the atmosphere was constant you would have a single point of intersection between the flat line and the reverse half-life curve. That is more or less how it is done for 30 or 40,000 years ago.

        For 2,000-5,000 years ago (1bc – 3,000BC) they have pieced together “wiggle curves” that attempt to document the density of C14 in the atmosphere year by year. The trouble is that because wiggles, the reverse half-life curve intersects it multiple times, and those intersections can potentially be thousands of years apart.

        The solution is to test numerous contiguous rings. The result is a “wiggle”. You then go through a “wiggle fitting” exercise.

        The reason for the potential centuries of error in the 1000bc-3000bc time-frame is that it is really hard to build the reference wiggle that documents the actual C14 density for each year.

        I still don’t know why an extra-terrestrial source of C14 excitation is better than a terrestrial source.

    • It’s only circular if you don’t know what you are talking about.
      They take samples with known dates and create timelines based on the varying thicknesses of the rings.
      Multiple overlapping samples can be used to create a continuous timeline much longer than the age of a single tree.
      Then when they find another sample from the same area, they can compare it’s rings against the already existing standard to find out when that sample was growing.

      Once you have the age of an object fixed, you can then use that object to calibrate the C-14 readings.
      Once C-14 readings are calibrated, they can be used to help date other objects.

      • Agreed! Everything is dated relative to other things. When any one methodology seems to disagree it creates an opportunity to examine the specifics of that methodology to determine why and improve it. Therefore, a new methodology is always valuable even though it may take time to determine its accuracy and limitations.

    • They get the actual age of EACH ring, by simply counting in from the outside.

      Then they radio-carbon date each ring, and that will vary because the atmospheric 14C was NOT THE SAME when each of those rings was formed, so the starting number for each ring can be calculated from the 5730 year half life, and the true age, so they can deduce the true starting 14C abundance for each ring, and then create a linearized scale for dating other artifacts.

      Also they use mass spectrometer sorters to count each isotopic atom, so they can date very small residuals of 14C. It’s not like they have to accumulate some 14 C and weigh it. They individually count the atoms which are sorted in a mass spectrometer.

      Evidently not much is actually taught in schools these days.

      G

  11. As others have pointed out, calibration of C-14/C-12 ratios by annual tree rings has been known since the 1960s (50 years ago), and the use of mass spectrometers to measure ALL of the carbon atoms rather than simply the radioactive C-14 atoms has increased the sensitivity for about 40 years. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiocarbon_dating . This is NOT the same thing as interpreting tree ring data (from one tree) to infer climate changes over the entire globe. Sheesh, people must be desperate to get research funding by “discovering” “new” ideas, always invoking climate change in their proposals.

    • Well I knew all about it (as it was then) in 1957 (Sputnik year).

      So it’s old hat. When I worked for Monsanto Central Research labs in St Louis (county), they had at least one of everything that existed with the syllable ” ometer ” appended.

      The state of public knowledge of metrology techniques is pitiful.

      G

  12. The laboratory precision of radiocarbon dating is now routinely +/- 40 years, not several hundred years. However, the rate of production of 14C in the atmosphere varies with changes in the cosmic flux, i.e., 14C production is not constant. The good news is that comparison of 14C ages with tree ring dates allows construction of curves to correct for variation in cosmic ray flux. This also allows us to see how cosmic radiation has varied over time and to correlate these changes with global climate. In general, high cosmic flux correlates very well with low sun spot numbers, TSI, and cool climate.

    Because of variations in cosmic flux, radiocarbon years are not the same as calendar years so calendar years are not equivalent to radiocarbon ages. However, 14C can be converted to calendar years using well established curves.

    So spikes in cosmic flux can be recorded in the delta 14C curves, but because solar flares are multiple short-term events, the problem is demonstrating which spike among many may be present in a given sample. But definitely worth looking for.

    • We tend to forget that geomagnetic excursions also affect 14C production and they are very poorly known and dated except for the biggest ones. For example the Sterno-Etrussian excursion dated between 2700 and 2300 years BP has quite a lot of uncertainty in its dating.

      Also the 14C calibration curves have periods of quite flat 14C production when very few 14C years correspond to a lot of calendar years so dating at those periods has a lot more uncertainty.

    • The claim is that by using this technique, they can date an object to a specific year, not just +/- 40 years.
      If they know the year in which the spike occurred, by finding the same spike in a sample, they can fix that ring in the sample to a known year.

      • Well they can date ANY single ring to a specific calendar year, by simply counting the rings. The claim of this “new” idea is that they can match artifacts such as radio carbon spikes in different samples.

        G

      • The claim is not about tree rings per se but about any plants growing once upon a time, paper, wood scraps, woven baskets, etc. etc.

  13. Michael Mann 2: Eclectic Boogeroo!

    While this is some sort of more accurate time-stamp system – I’ll give it that – it will literally tell us NOTHING new.

    • As Dodgy geezer points out, there are still controversies regarding the dating of some ancient events.
      Perhaps this technique can be used to help settle those controversies.
      Is it an earthshaking discovery? No.
      But does every discovery have to be earthshaking in order to be interesting?

  14. Dendrochronology is limited by requiring chronologically overlapping sets of growth rings from a common climate for comparison and calibration. Once a tree-ring date is established, the corresponding C-14 levels in the individual rings is determined to calibrate the ‘carbon-14 calendar.’ The precise date of a C-14 spike must be established by dendrochronology in a specific climate region before it can be applied globally, so tree-rings are still the master clocks. Absent a tree-ring series for calibration, the date of a single carbon-14 spike, such as from a piece of charcoal or a fragment of papyrus, still cannot be precisely established.
    If the organic sample consists of material from a single year, such as a papyrus or a seed, carbon dating is still highly problematical and inaccurate due to the stochastic nature of C-14 levels vs. time, partly due to the episodic spikes.

    • Presumably spikes will happen all over the world at the same time.
      So if we have a sample of wood with a series of spikes in it that match up with a series of spikes with wood taken from another part of the world, it may be possible to put a date to that piece of wood, even if we don’t have a continuous dendrochronological record for that region, to place that piece of wood into.

  15. These tree ring findings might prove useful, but are surely not as interesting as Dr. Michael Mann’s findings that tree ring growth is solely influenced by temperature.

  16. I’m not sure how extreme solar radiation bursts detected in trees helps you to date ‘civilisations’, unless you have another absolutely clear indicator in the writings of ancient civilisations.

    If those exist, fine.

    But if not, ask how evidence in a tree equates to evidence about a civilisation…….

    • Easy, by dating carbon-based items found in association with that civilizations other artifacts.

  17. I’ve always loved quoting this one:

    ” Unlike the previous 100,000 years, when the climate underwent numerous large jumps and drifts, measured in many degrees Fahrenheit, the changes during the entire Holocene have been only 1° or 2° F—too small to ascertain with the natural climate indicators we have been using until now (such as tree rings and fossil pollen), whose accuracy is no better than 2° F. ”

    and

    “how does any of this explain the cooling in the Southern Hemisphere—the Little Ice Age in New Zealand’s Southern Alps and in South America’s Andes? ”

    http://www.naturalhistorymag.com/htmlsite/1001/1001_feature.html

  18. @Steve Reddish: my first paragraph reported someone else’s view based on tree ring data. My second paragraph reported my view about radioisotope data. The two paragraphs not only do not conflict, they have a common theme that precise-looking ancient dates need not be believed.

    Some Bible passages give reign-relative dates that can be tied to other chronologies, themselves not as precisely known as we’d like. Much Biblical dating is through genealogies known (in some cases) or suspected (in others) to be incomplete.

    • My reason for asking was that your 1st paragraph appeared to favor the tree ring date, while your 2nd paragraph casts doubt on radiocarbon dating reliability. If you meant that neither tree ring dating nor radiocarbon dating are reliable, I certainly agree.

      If you mean that Biblical chronologies are also unreliable, I certainly disagree.

      gregfreemyer August 17, 2016 at 8:41 pm demonstrated how it is not weird at all to arrive at a precise date for the fall of Jericho using Biblical chronology.

      Not every geneology in the Bible is placed there to give us dating (Luke 3), but those in Gen. 5 and Gen. 11 are. You can tell they are not reign related because they count from birth to 1st child, and then that offspring from birth to 1st child.

      SR

  19. Anyone find tree ring evidence of the Carrington event? Or did that not have the right type of emissions to cause detectable damage?

  20. What’s left out is that tree rings were never a reasonable proxy to start. Tree rings respond to so many environmental influences they have no place in the conversation at all. Non starters. Absolute crap. Junk. Can we all say “confounded”? Sure we can. I knew you could.

  21. Carbon 14 dating.
    I guess another aspect “settled science” is up for grabs.
    The winner will be what the consensus wants.

    In this case though, a few adjustments to way-past records may be in in order,
    (Or, maybe we should just admit that we really don’t know as much now about “then”.)

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