Analysis of carbon isotopes in airborne carbonate and implications for aeolian sources

Junji Cao, Yaqianq Wang, Xiaoye Zhang, Shuncheng Lee, Kinfai Ho, Yunning Cao, Yang Li

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Methods were developed to determine the mass ratios of carbon isotopes in trace amounts of aerosol carbonate. A Finnigan MAT 252 mass spectrometer fitted with an on-line Kiel device was to determine the13C/12C ratio in CO2produced from the carbonate. A study using these methods was conducted to characterize the carbonate carbon isotopes in aerosol samples collected in Xi'an on dusty and normal days during March and April 2002. Results of the study demonstrate that insights into the origin of the dust can be deduced from its isotopic composition. That is, the δ13C of carbonate for dust storm samples ranged from -1.4‰ to -4.2‰, and this is consistent with sandy materials in dust source regions upwind. In contrast, for non-dusty days δ13C ranged from -7.5% to -9.3‰, which is more similar to fine particles emitted from local surface soils. Comparisons of dust storm aerosols with surface soils from source regions and with aerosol samples collected downwind indicate that the δ13C values did not change appreciably during long-range transport. Therefore, carbon isotopes have the potential for distinguishing among source materials, and this approach provides a powerful new tool for identifying dust provenance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1637-1641
Number of pages5
JournalChinese Science Bulletin
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2004


  • Aerosol
  • Carbon isotopes
  • Carbonate
  • Dust provenance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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