Isotope hydrology of catchment basins: lithogenic and cosmogenic isotopic systems

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A variety of physical processes affect solute concentrations within catchment waters. The isotopic compositions of the solutes can indicate which processes have determined the observed concentrations. These processes together constitute the physical history of the water. Many solutes in natural waters are derived from the interaction between the water and the rock and/or soil within the system - these are termed `lithogenic` solutes. The isotopic compositions of these solutes provide information regarding rock-water interactions. Many other solutes have their isotopic compositions determined both within and outside of the catchment - i.e., in addition to being derived from catchment rock and ... continued below

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Nimz, G. J. June 1998.

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A variety of physical processes affect solute concentrations within catchment waters. The isotopic compositions of the solutes can indicate which processes have determined the observed concentrations. These processes together constitute the physical history of the water. Many solutes in natural waters are derived from the interaction between the water and the rock and/or soil within the system - these are termed `lithogenic` solutes. The isotopic compositions of these solutes provide information regarding rock-water interactions. Many other solutes have their isotopic compositions determined both within and outside of the catchment - i.e., in addition to being derived from catchment rock and soil, they are solutes that are also transported into the catchment. Important members of this group include solutes that have isotopic compositions produced by atomic particle interactions with other nuclides. The source of the atomic particles can be cosmic radiation (producing `cosmogenic` nuclides in the atmosphere and land surface), anthropogenic nuclear reactions (producing `thermonuclear` nuclides), or radioactive and fission decay of naturally-occurring elements, principally {sup 238}U (producing `in-situ` lithogenic nuclides in the deep subsurface). Current language usage often combines all of the atomic particle-produced nuclides under the heading `cosmogenic nuclides`, and for simplicity we will often follow that usage here, although always indicating which variety is being discussed. This paper addresses the processes that affect the lithogenic and cosmogenic solute concentrations in catchment waters, and how the isotopic compositions of the solutes can be used in integrative ways to identify these processes, thereby revealing the physical history of the water within a catchment system. The concept of a `system` is important in catchment hydrology. A catchment is the smallest landscape unit that can both participate in all of the aspects of the hydrologic cycle and also be treated as a mostly closed system for mass balance considerations. It is the near closure of the system that permits well- constrained chemical mass balance calculations to be made. These calculations generally focus of lithogenic solutes, and therefore in our discussions of lithogenic nuclides in the paper, the concept of chemical mass balance in a nearly dosed system will play an important role. Examination of the isotopic compositions of solutes provides a better understanding of the variety of processes controlling mass balance. It is with this approach that we examined the variety of processes occurring within the catchment system, such as weathering and soil production, generation of stormflow and streamflow (hydrograph separation), movement of soil pore water, groundwater flow, and the overall processes involved with basinal water balance. In this paper, the term `nuclide` will be used when referring to a nuclear species that contains a particular number of protons and neutrons. The term is not specific to any element. The term `isotope` will be used to distinguish nuclear species of a given element (atoms with the same number of protons). That is to say, there are many nuclides in nature - for example, {sup 36}Cl, {sup 87}Sr, {sup 238}U; the element has four naturally-occurring isotopes - {sup 87}Sr, and {sup 88}Sr. This paper will first discuss the general principles that underlie the study of lithogenic and cosmogenic nuclides in hydrology, and provide references to some of the more important studies applying these principles and nuclides. We then turn in the second section to a discussion of their specific applications in catchment- scale systems. The final section of this paper discusses new directions in the application of lithogenic and cosmogenic nuclides to catchment hydrology, with some thoughts concerning possible applications that still remain unexplored.

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48 p.; Other: FDE: PDF; PL:

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OSTI as DE98058641

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  • Environmental management science program workshop, Chicago, IL (United States), 27-30 Jul 1998

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  • Other: DE98058641
  • Report No.: UCRL-JC--131027
  • Report No.: CONF-980736--
  • Grant Number: W-7405-ENG-48
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 675092
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc710232

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  • June 1998

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  • Sept. 12, 2015, 6:31 a.m.

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Nimz, G. J. Isotope hydrology of catchment basins: lithogenic and cosmogenic isotopic systems, article, June 1998; California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc710232/: accessed November 16, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.