The 774–775 Carbon-14 Spike is an observed increase of 1.2% in the concentration of[carbon-14 isotope in tree rings dated to the years 774 or 775 CE, which is about 20 times as high as the normal background rate of variation. It was discovered during a study of Japanese cedar trees, with the year of occurrence determined through dendrochronology.[1] A surge in a specific isotope of beryllium (10Be), detected in Antarctic ice cores, has also been associated with the 774–775 event.[2]

The event appears to have been global, with the same carbon-14 signal found in tree rings from Germany, Russia, the United States, and New Zealand.[2][3][4] A "red crucifix" was recorded by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as appearing in the skies of Britain for the year 774; since no supernova remnant has been found for this year, it is interpreted as an aurora borealis.[2]

Time profile of the 774 AD spike in C-14.

Fig.1 The time profile of the carbon-14 spike around 774 CE. The colored dots represent the measurements in Japanese (M12) and German (Oak) trees, while the black lines represent the modeled profile corresponding to the instant production of carbon-14. Modified after.[2]

The signal exhibits a sharp increase of ~1.2% followed by a slow decline (see Figure 1), which is typical for an instant production of carbon-14 in the atmosphere,[2] indicating that the event was short in duration. The globally averaged production of carbon-14 for this event is calculated as Q= (1.1-1.5)×108 atoms/cm2.[2][5][6]


Several possible causes of the event have been considered.

The common paradigm is that the event was caused by a solar particle event (SPE) from a very strong solar flare, perhaps the strongest ever known, but still within the Sun's abilities.[2][5][7][8][9] Another discussed scenario of the event origin, involving a gamma-ray burst,[6][10] appears unlikely since the event was also observed in isotopes 10Be and 36Cl.[9]

Frequency of similar events

The event of 774 is the strongest spike over the last 11,000 years in the record of cosmogenic isotopes,[7] but it is not unique. A similar event occurred in 993 or 994, but it was only 0.6 times as strong.[11] Several other events of the same kind are also suspected to have occurred during the Holocene epoch.[7]

From these statistics, one may expect that such strong events occur once per tens of millennia, while weaker events may occur once per millennium or even century. The event of 774 did not cause catastrophic consequences for life on Earth,[8] but had it happened in modern times, it may have produced catastrophic damage to modern technology, particularly to communication and space-borne navigation systems. In addition, a solar flare capable of producing the observed isotopic effect would pose considerable risk to astronauts. [12]

See also


  1. Miyake, F.; Nagaya, K.; Masuda, K.; Nakamura, T. (2012). "A signature of cosmic-ray increase in AD 774–775 from tree rings in Japan". Nature 486 (7402): 240–242. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Usoskin, I. G. et al. (2013). "The AD775 cosmic event revisited: The Sun is to blame". Astronomy & Astrophysics 552 (1): L3. 
  3. Jull, A.J.T.; Panyushkina, I.P.; Lange, T.E. (2014). "Excursions in the 14C record at AD 774-775 in tree rings from Russia and America". Geophys. Res. Lett. 41: 3004–3010. 
  4. Güttler, D.; Beer, J.; Bleicher, N. (2013). "The 774/775 AD event in the southern hemisphere". Annual report of the laboratory of ion beam physics (ETH-Zurich). 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Melott, A.L.; Thomas, B.C. (2012). "Causes of an AD 774-775 C increase". Nature 491: E1. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Pavlov, A.K.; Blinov, A.V.; Konstantinov, A.N. (2013). "AD 775 pulse of cosmogenic radionuclides production as imprint of a Galactic gamma-ray burst". Mon. Notes R. Astron. Soc. 435: 2878–2884. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Usoskin, I.G.; Kovaltsov, G.A. (2012). "Occurrence of Extreme Solar Particle Events: Assessment from Historical Proxy Data". Astrophys. J. 757: 92. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Thomas, B. C.; Melott, A. L.; Arkenberg, K. R.; Snyder, B. R. (2013). "Terrestrial effects of possible astrophysical sources of an AD 774-775 increase in 14C production". Geophysical Research Letters 40 (6): 1237. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Mekhaldi (2015). "Multiradionuclide evidence for the solar origin of the cosmic-ray events of ᴀᴅ 774/5 and 993/4". Nature Comm. 6: 8611. 
  10. Hambaryan, V. V.; Neuhauser, R. (2013). "A Galactic short gamma-ray burst as cause for the 14C peak in AD 774/5". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 430 (1): 32–36. 
  11. Miyake, F.; Masuda, K.; Nakamura, T. (2013). "Another rapid event in the carbon-14 content of tree rings". Nature Comm 4: 1748. 
  12. Townsend, L. W.; Porter, J. A.; deWet, W. C; Smith, W. J.; McGirl, N. A.; Heilbronn, L. H.; Moussa, H. M. (2016-06-01). "Extreme solar event of AD775: Potential radiation exposure to crews in deep space". Acta Astronautica. Special Section: Selected Papers from the International Workshop on Satellite Constellations and Formation Flying 2015 123: 116–120. 

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This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at 774–775 carbon-14 spike. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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