Journal of Atmospheric Chemistry

, Volume 73, Issue 2, pp 207–221 | Cite as

Carbon isotopic (14C and 13C) characterization of fossil-fuel derived dissolved organic carbon in wet precipitation in Shandong Province, China

  • Xuchen Wang
  • Tiantian Ge
  • Caili Xu
  • Yuejun Xue
  • Chunle Luo


We present results from a 1-year study of radiocarbon and stable carbon isotope measurement of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) of wet precipitation samples collected in the Shandong province of China. A total of 32 rainfall and 4 snow samples were collected from two coastal cities (Qingdao and Yantai) and one inland site (Taian) during 2014. Concentrations of DOC in the rainwater and snow samples varied widely from 28 to 616 μM. In general, rainwater originating from marine sources had relatively low DOC concentrations compared with continentally generated precipitation. Values of δ13C-DOC and Δ14C-DOC in the snow and rainwater ranged from −19.0 to −29.4 ‰ and −23 to −494 ‰, with corresponding radiocarbon ages of 125 to 5410 years before present. The dominant DOC in the wet precipitation had a relatively old 14C age (average 2841 years) and a depleted 13C value (average −24.4 ‰), indicating the mixing of contemporary organic carbon with 14C-depleted fossil fuel-derived soluble organic carbon in the atmosphere. Using a dual isotopic two-endmember model, we calculate that 7 % to 52 % of DOC in the snow and rainfall originated from fossil fuels. It is estimated that the flux of DOC in continental rainfall of China is 23 × 1012 g C yr−1 and of this, 7.1 × 1012 g C yr−1 could be fossil-fuel OC. On a global scale, the DOC flux in rainfall is estimated to be 357 Tg C yr−1, and 110 Tg C yr−1 could be fossil fuel-derived. Our study demonstrates that wet precipitation is an important removal process for old fossil fuel carbon from the atmosphere. This removal mechanism could play an important role in the carbon cycle, especially for the anthropogenically derived fraction, and it should be taken into consideration in global carbon cycle models.


Radiocarbon Fossil fuel emission Organic carbon Wet precipitation, Atmospheric pollution 



We thank Xiaojin Qiu for help with sample collections. We also thank the staff and colleagues at the National Ocean Science Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (NOSAMS) facility for high precision measurements of δ13C and Δ14C of the samples. We appreciate the constructive comments from the two anonymous reviewers. Financial support for this work was provided by Ocean University of China (841312004) and China NSF (Grants # 41476057, 41221004 and 91428101).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xuchen Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Tiantian Ge
    • 1
  • Caili Xu
    • 1
  • Yuejun Xue
    • 1
  • Chunle Luo
    • 1
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Marine Chemistry Theory and Technology, Ministry of Education, College of Chemistry and Chemical EngineeringOcean University of ChinaQingdaoChina
  2. 2.Qingdao Collaborative Innovation Center of Marine Science and TechnologyQingdaoChina

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