30 Jun 2021

30 Jun 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESSD.

A worldwide meta-analysis (1977–2020) of sediment core dating using fallout radionuclides including 137Cs and 210Pbxs

Anthony Foucher1, Pierre- Alexis Chaboche1, Pierre Sabatier2, and Olivier Evrard1 Anthony Foucher et al.
  • 1Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement (LSCE-IPSL), UMR 8212 (CEA/CNRS/UVSQ), Université Paris-Saclay, 91191 Gif-sur-Yvette Cedex, France
  • 2EDYTEM, Université Savoie-Mont Blanc, Université Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, 73370, Le Bourget du Lac, France

Abstract. Dating recent sediment archives (< 150 years) constitutes a prerequisite for environmental and climatic reconstructions. Radiocaesium (137Cs) emitted during thermonuclear bomb testing (~1950 ̶ 1980) and nuclear accidents, as well as the decrease of excess lead-210 (210Pbxs) with depth are often combined to establish sediment core chronology. Although these methods have been widely used during the last several decades, there is a lack of structured and comprehensive worldwide synthesis of fallout radionuclide analyses used for dating sediment cores in environmental and Earth sciences. The current literature overview was based on the compilation of 573 articles published between 1977 and 2020, reporting the collection of 1351 individual dating sediment cores (the dataset can be accessed at This review was conducted in order to map the locations where 137Cs fallout events were detected. These included the thermonuclear bomb testing peak in 1963, the Chernobyl accident in 1986, the Fukushima accident in 2011, and 24 additional events identified in 112 sites that led to local radioactive releases (e.g. Sellafield accidents, Chinese nuclear tests). When 210Pbxs records were used along with 137Cs data, detailed information on the 210Pbxs age depth models were also synthesized. Multiple information including the core collection method, sediment properties, radionuclide analysis techniques and catchment characteristics were also compiled.

With the current growing number of studies analyzing sediment cores and the increasing interest in the deployment of sediment fingerprinting techniques including radionuclides as potential discriminant properties, this spatialized synthesis provides a unique worldwide compilation for characterizing fallout radionuclide sources and levels at the global scale. This synthesis provides in particular a referential of 137Cs peak attribution for improving the sediment core dating and it outlines the main questions that deserve attention in future research as well as the regions where additional 137Cs fallout investigations should be conducted in priority.

Anthony Foucher et al.

Status: open (until 28 Aug 2021)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on essd-2021-168', Anonymous Referee #1, 24 Jul 2021 reply

Anthony Foucher et al.

Data sets

Global review of 137Cs and 210Pbxs fallout used for dating sediment cores Anthony Foucher, Pierre-Alexis Chaboche, Pierre Sabatier, Olivier Evrard

Anthony Foucher et al.


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Short summary
Sediment archives provide a powerful and unique tool for reconstructing the trajectory and the resilience of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems facing major environmental changes. Establishing an age depth model is the first prerequisite of any paleo-investigation. This study synthesis the distribution of two radionuclides classicaly used to this aim providing a worldwide referential to help the scientific community reaching a consensus for dating recent sedimentary archives.