Initial results of an intercomparison of AMS-based atmospheric 14CO2 measurements

John Miller, Scott Lehman, Chad Wolak, Jocelyn Turnbull, Gregory Dunn, Heather Graven, Ralph Keeling, Harro A.J. Meijer, Anita Th Aerts-Bijma, Sanne W.L. Palstra, Andrew M. Smith, Colin Allison, John Southon, Xiaomei Xu, Takakiyo Nakazawa, Shuji Aoki, Toshio Nakamura, Thomas Guilderson, Brian la Franchi, Hitoshi MukaiYukio Terao, Masao Uchida, Miyuki Kondo

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16 Citations (Scopus)


This article presents results from the first 3 rounds of an international intercomparison of measurements of Δ14CO2 in liter-scale samples of whole air by groups using accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS). The ultimate goal of the intercomparison is to allow the merging of Δ14CO2 data from different groups, with the confidence that differences in the data are geophysical gradients and not artifacts of calibration. Eight groups have participated in at least 1 round of the intercomparison, which has so far included 3 rounds of air distribution between 2007 and 2010. The comparison is intended to be ongoing, so that: a) the community obtains a regular assessment of differences between laboratories; and b) individual laboratories can begin to assess the long-term repeatability of their measurements of the same source air. Air used in the intercomparison was compressed into 2 high-pressure cylinders in 2005 and 2006 at Niwot Ridge, Colorado (USA), with one of the tanks "spiked" with fossil CO2, so that the 2 tanks span the range of Δ14CO2 typically encountered when measuring air from both remote background locations and polluted urban ones. Three groups show interlaboratory comparability within 1‰ for ambient level Δ14CO2. For high CO2/low Δ14CO2 air, 4 laboratories showed comparability within 2‰. This approaches the goals set out by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) CO2 Measurements Experts Group in 2005. One important observation is that single-sample precisions typically reported by the AMS community cannot always explain the observed differences within and between laboratories. This emphasizes the need to use long-term repeatability as a metric for measurement precision, especially in the context of long-term atmospheric monitoring.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1475-1483
Number of pages9
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Atmospheric radiocarbon
  • Inter-comparison

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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