Plutonium isotopes in the North Western Pacific sediments coupled with radiocarbon in corals recording precise timing of the Anthropocene

Yusuke Yokoyama*, Stephen Tims, Michaela Froehlich, Shoko Hirabayashi, Takahiro Aze, L. Keith Fifield, Dominik Koll, Yosuke Miyairi, Stefan Pavetich, Michinobu Kuwae

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    9 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Plutonium (Pu) has been used as a mid-twentieth century time-marker in various geological archives as a result of atmospheric nuclear tests mainly conducted in 1950s. Advancement of analytical techniques allows us to measure 239Pu and 240Pu more accurately and can thereby reconstruct the Pacific Pu signal that originated from the former Pacific Proving Grounds (PPG) in the Marshall Islands. Here, we propose a novel method that couples annual banded reef building corals and nearshore anoxic marine sediments to provide a marker to precisely determine the start of the nuclear era which is known as a part of the Anthropocene. We demonstrate the efficacy of the methods using sediment obtained from Beppu Bay, Japan, and a coral from Ishigaki Island, Japan. The sedimentary records show a clear Pu increase from 1950, peaking during the 1960s, and then showing a sharp decline during the 1970s. However, a constantly higher isotope ratio between 239Pu and 240Pu suggest an additional contribution other than global fallout via ocean currents. Furthermore, single elevations in 240Pu/239Pu provide supportive evidence of close-in-fallout similar to previous studies. Coral skeletal radiocarbon displays a clear timing with the signatures supporting the reliability of the Beppu Bay sediments as archives and demonstrates the strength of this method to capture potential Anthropocene signatures.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number10068
    JournalScientific Reports
    Volume12
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

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