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Statistics matters in interpretations of non-traditional stable isotopic data

Abstract

Increasing volumes of of non-traditional stable isotope data have brought new opportunities to gain important insights into geochemical and planetary processes. However, there is a worrysome trend that the isotopic data are interpreted in a fashion that its statistical approaches are chosen subjectively. This communication summarizes the rules regarding calculating the mean, standard deviation and relative standard deviation of a population, as well as error propagation and significant digits. These rules should be used when reporting geochemical data, especially for isotope ratios. Using two examples, I show that statistics matters in isotopic data interpretation.

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Fig. 1

(Modified from Skoog et al. 2013)

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Acknowledgements

I appreciate the correction from Wangye Li for the manuscript. Anonymous reviewers have greatly improved the quality of the work. This work is financially supported by NSFC No. 41703019.

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Correspondence to Chun-Hui Li.

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Li, C. Statistics matters in interpretations of non-traditional stable isotopic data. Acta Geochim (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11631-020-00401-x

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Keywords

  • Isotopic data processing
  • Error propagation
  • Significant digits
  • Difference between means with uncertainties