lightning and C14

1 Dec 2017

Robert Farrar sent in the link to this post. However, it was featured a days ago in an earlier News post, on November 24th, at www.sis-group.org.uk/news/lightning-creates-anti-matter.htm .... (see www.crev.info/2017/11/lightning-can-produce-carbon-14/ ). I took that post from Tall Bloke's blog site. Robert's link, on the other hand, concentrates on C14 rather than the production of anti-matter particles (although in the comments C14 is a feature). Therefore, C14 as a by product of lightning was also mentioned but I declined from saying it may affect carbon dating methodology, the reason being that the half life of C14 is just 5,730 years. Therefore lightning derived C14 is relatively unimportant to dating - as far as I can see. It does however affect something connected to the dating controversy and that is the existence of C14 plateau events. These are caused by a larger than normal increase in C14 - the most notable example being at 775/776AD, and another influx in the 13th century. It is usually thought these above average injections of C14 were caused by really big coronal mass injections (although other sources have been suggested such as interaction of the Earth with a comet coma, or supernovae debris moving through the solar system etc). Now we can add lightning to those possibilities - or thunderbolts of an extraordinary nature.

The link with C14 dating is of course of big interest to Young Earth creationists, hence why they zoomed on that particular connection with lightning. It is a thought provoking piece as it quotes non-creationist sources, and adds the Creationist angle to what little we know so far. Well worth reading as are a lot of these Creationist pieces as they bring a fresh angle to the debate. The piece also begins well by saying that for decades we have been told that C14 is generated by high energy cosmic rays striking the atmosphere, hitting nitrogen atoms. Now, Japanese researchers have actually recorded lightning generating gamma rays and positrons, indicating nuclear fission was occurring - and one of the products of the process is C14. The new findings mean that cosmic rays, as well as lightning, can produce C14 in the atmosphere - and this is without taking into account sprites, or lightning known to commonly flow upwards towards the ionosphere (and perhaps, open space). When that is factored in we are on the edge of an incredible re-write of C14 production - but first the dots have to be joined. For the moment it is confined to terrestrial lightning - visible from the surface.

The article ends up by saying that it is unlikely it will cause change to readiocarbon dating results. The calibration depends on the ratio of C14 to C12 in the atmosphere - which is already a known. Altogether, a possible game changer in some respects - but C14 dating will survive.