Radiocarbon, or 14C, is a radiometric dating method ideally suited for providing a chronological framework in archaeology and geosciences for timescales spanning the last 50,000 years. 14C is easily detectable in most common natural organic materials and has a half-life (5,730±40 years) relevant to these timescales. 14C produced from large-scale detonations of nuclear bombs between the 1950s and the early 1960s can be used for dating modern organic materials formed after the 1950s. Often these studies demand high-resolution chronology to resolve ages within a few decades to less than a few years. Despite developments in modern, high-precision 14C analytical methods, the applicability of 14C in high-resolution chronology is limited by short-term variations in atmospheric 14C in the past. This article reviews the roles of the principal natural drivers (e.g., solar magnetic activity and ocean circulation) and the anthropogenic perturbations (e.g., fossil fuel CO and 14C from nuclear and thermonuclear bombs) that are responsible for short-term 14C variations in the environment. Methods and challenges of high-resolution 14C dating are discussed.


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