Abstract Since 1957 the 14C/C ratio of the dissolved inorganic carbon in Mono Lake has risen by about 60‰. The magnitude of this increase is about four times larger than that expected from the invasion of bomb-produced 14C from the atmosphere. We have eliminated the following explanations: (1) measurement error, (2) an unusually high physical exchange rate for non-reactive gases, (3) inorganic enhancement of the CO 2 exchange rate, and (4) biological enhancement of the CO 2 exchange rate. Clandestine disposal of waste radiocarbon remains a dark-horse explanation. In the course of our investigations we have uncovered evidence for at least one episodic input of radiocarbon-free carbon to the lake over the last 1000 years. We speculate that this injection was related to a hydrothermal event resulting from sublacustrine volcanic activity.