Carbon Cycle GroupICOSResearch TopicsPeople & ContactDataPublications

Carbon Cycle Group

Measuring station on the roof of the IUP

The carbon cycle group at IUP investigates the biogeochemical cycles of long-lived greenhouse gases such as CO2, CH4 N2O and SF6 on the regional but also on the global scale. We measure their long-term atmospheric trends and for CO2 also the radiocarbon (14C) content. Further, atmospheric 222Radon activity concentration measurements are conducted as we use this natural radioactive noble gas as tracer to evaluate atmospheric transport processes. In collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena these data are evaluated based on regional and global atmospheric transport models.

In the last decade, the IUP carbon cycle group contributed to the design and implementation of the European Research Infrastructure ICOS (Integrated Carbon Observation System) and has set up in Heidelberg the Central Radiocarbon Laboratory (CRL) as part of the Central Analytical Laboratory of ICOS.

Karl Otto Münnich Radiocarbon Laboratory of ICOS (ICOS CRL)

The ICOS CRL builds upon the former Heidelberg Radiocarbon Laboratory, which was operated for more than 50 years by IUP and the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences. The main task of the ICOS CRL is high precision radiocarbon analysis of CO2 samples from the ICOS atmospheric station network. These 14C measurements are used to separate the fossil fuel from the biogenic source contributions in atmospheric CO2 over Europe.

Research Topics

Long-term monitoring of 14CO2 in the global atmosphere

Delta14CO2 in the global atmosphere from 1950 until 2019

Radiocarbon (14C) is the natural radioactive carbon isotope, which is produced in the atmosphere by cosmic ray-induced reactions with atmospheric nitrogen. The radioactive half life of 14C is 5700 years. In an undisturbed steady state situation the atmospheric 14CO2 activity corresponds to an equilibrium between its production in the atmosphere and its radioactive decay in all carbon reservoirs exchanging CO2 with the atmosphere. The natural equilibrium level of atmospheric 14CO2 (reference level) has been disturbed through man's activities in the last century, by the ongoing input of fossil fuel CO2 into the atmosphere known as Suess effect, and through nuclear bomb testing in the atmosphere in the 1950s and early 1960s (14C bomb effect). After the atmospheric test ban treaty in 1963, 14CO2 reached its maximum in the Northern Hemisphere. The subsequent decrease is due to carbon exchange between atmosphere, ocean and biosphere. Today the decrease is mainly due to the ongoing input of 14C-free fossil fuel CO2 into the global atmosphere.

Download 14C Data

Read more:
→ Levin et al., 2010
→ Levin & Hesshaimer, 2000

Long-term monitoring of 14CO2 in the regional atmosphere

Carbon dioxide (CO2) released from burning of fossil fuels is void of radiocarbon. At a polluted station close to fossil fuel emissions, the atmospheric 14C/C ratio in CO2 is thus diluted by 14C-free fossil CO2 emissions. By comparing the 14C/C ratio at a polluted station, such as the ICOS pilot station Heidelberg, to that in clean air, e.g. Jungfraujoch, we can estimate the locally added fossil fuel CO2 concentration at the polluted station (red histogram). Note that in Heidelberg about half of the local CO2 concentration offset compared to background air is of biogenic origin (green histogram).

Read more:
→ Levin & Hammer 2018
→ Levin et al., 2011
→ Levin & Rödenbeck, 2008


'Readiness of ICOS for Necessities of Integrated Global Observations' is a 4-year H2020 project with emphasis on the further development of the readiness of ICOS Research Infrastructure (ICOS RI) to foster its sustainability.

Our Contribution: Development of measurement strategies for ICOS such as flask sampling and 14CO2 monitoring


VERIFY develops a system to estimate greenhouse gas emissions to support countries' emission reporting to the UN Climate Change Convention Secretariat. The emissions are estimated based on land, ocean and atmospheric observations.

Our Contribution: Testing of surrogate tracers (CO, NOx) for fossil fuel CO2


Radon metrology for use in climate change observation and radiation protection at the environmental level

Our Contribution as Collaborators: Intercomparison of the Heidelberg Radon Monitor with other atmospheric radon monitors, improvement of a radon soil flux map for Europe


Amazon Tall Tower Observatory - contributions to carbon cycle and climate research

Our Contributions: 14CO2 and 222Rn measurements, development of a radon soil flux map for Brazil

People & Contacts

Bachelor, Master and PhD students are welcome to contact Samuel Hammer and Ingeborg Levin if interested in thesis topics

Name Group Position Room Tel.: +49-6221-
Julian Della Coletta ICOS Technician INF 229 / R320 54 6314
Christopher Fuchs ICOS Student Helper    
Maksym Gachkivskyi ICOS PhD Student INF 229/ R334 54 6354
Eva-Maria Gier ICOS Technician Mathematikon / L133 54 6333
Samuel Hammer ICOS Group Leader Mathematikon / R116 54 6357
Cornelia Jaeschke Carbon Cycle MA Student Mathematikon / L118 54 6376
Hannes Juchem ICOS Student Helper    
Caterina Keller ICOS Secretary Mathematikon / L119 54 6377
Tobias Kneuer Carbon Cycle MA Student INF 229 / R344 54 6318
Sabine Kühr ICOS Technician Mathematikon / L133 54 6333
Ingeborg Levin Carbon Cycle Group Leader INF 229 / R318 54 6330
Mahshid Homayouni ICOS Student Helper    
Fabian Maier Carbon Cycle PhD Student INF 229 / R344 54 6318
Susanne Preunkert ICOS Research Scientist Mathematikon / L119 54 6377
Tobias Richter Carbon Cycle Student Helper INF 229  
Claudius Rosendahl Carbon Cycle PhD Student Mathematikon / L118 54 6376

Data sets from earlier research projects


All Publications

Recent Publications:


  • Levin, I., Karstens, U., Eritt, M., Maier, F., Arnold, S., Rzesanke, D., Hammer, S., Ramonet, M., Vítková, G., Conil, S., Heliasz, M., Kubistin, D., and Lindauer, M.: A dedicated flask sampling strategy developed for ICOS stations based on CO2 and CO measurements and STILT footprint modelling, Atmos. Chem. Phys., accepted, doi:10.5194/acp-2020-185, 2020.
  • Ramonet, M., P. Ciais, F. Apadula, J. Bartyzel , A. Bastos, P. Bergamaschi, P. E. Blanc, D. Brunner, L. C. d. Torchiaro, F. Calzolari, H. Chen, L. Chmura, A. Colomb, S. Conil, P. Cristofanelli, E. Cuevas, R. Curcoll, M. Delmotte, A. d. Sarra, L. Emmenegger, G. Forster, A. Frumau, C. Gerbig, F. Gheusi, S. Hammer, L. Haszpra, J. Hatakka, L. Hazan, M. Heliasz, S. Henne, A. Hensen, O. Hermansen, P. Keronen, R. Kivi, K. Kominkova, D. Kubistin, O. Laurent, T. Laurila, J. Lavric, I. Lehner, K.E.J. Lehtinen, A. Leskinen, M. Leuenberger, I. Levin, M. Lindauer, M. Lopez, C. L. Myhre, I. Mammarella, G. Manca, A. Manning, M. V. Marek, P. Marklund, D. Martin, F. Meinhardt, N. Mihalopoulos, M. Molder, J. A. Morgui, J. Necki, S. O'Doherty, C. O'Dowd, M. Ottosson, C. Philippon, S. Piacentino, J. M. Pichon, C. Plass-Duelmer, A. Resovsky, L.Rivier, X. Rodó, M.K. Sha, H. Scheeren, D. Sferlazzo, T. G. Spain, K. M. Stanley, M. Steinbacher, P. Trisolano, A. Vermeulen, G. Vítková, D. Weyrauch, I. Xueref-Remy, K. Yala and C. Y. Kwok (2020): The fingerprint of the summer 2018 drought in Europe on ground-based atmospheric CO2 measurements. Philos. T. R. Soc. B 375:20190513.
  • Grossi, C., Chambers, S. D., Llido, O., Vogel, F. R., Kazan, V., Capuana, A., Werczynski, S., Curcoll, R., Delmotte, M., Vargas, A., Morguí, J.-A., Levin, I., and Ramonet, M.: Inter-comparison study of atmospheric 222Rn and 222Rn progeny monitors. Atmos. Meas. Tech., 13, 2241–2255, 2020, doi:10.5194/amt-13-2241-2020