Radio carbon dating stone
In 2008 we could only calibrate radiocarbon dates until 26,000 years.Now the curve extends (tentatively) to 50,000 years.But as soon as humans started digging for coal and drilling for oil, they introduced a complication.Fossil fuels were once living tissue, and the carbon dioxide emitted as they burn might be described as “pre-aged”, because all the carbon-14 has decayed.
And if humans ever do successfully switch to growing biomass for energy, and at the same time learn to capture the carbon dioxide exhaust for underground storage, that too could create what Dr Köhler calls methodological difficulties for the archaeologists.
If the world continues to burn fossil fuels at the present prodigal rate, not only will sea levels rise and climates change, but forensic scientists will lose a valuable tool.
Peter Köhler, a physicist at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, Germany, now thinks he may have an answer.
This is known as the “Suess effect”, named after the Austrian physicist Hans Suess.
And a scientist pointed out in 2015 that this effect will become more pronounced.