The nuclear weapons testing programme of the USA has released radionuclides to the subsurface at the Nevada Test Site. One of these tests has been used to study the hydrological transport of radionuclides for over 25 years in groundwater and the deep unsaturated zone. Ten years after the weapon's test, a 16 year groundwater pumping experiment was initiated to study the mobility of radionuclides from that test in an alluvial aquifer. The continuously pumped groundwater was released into an unlined ditch where some of the water infiltrated into the 200 m deep vadose zone. The pumped groundwater had well-characterized tritium activities that were utilized to trace water migration in the shallow and deep vadose zones. Within the near-surface vadose zone, tritium levels in the soil water are modelled by a simple one-dimensional, analytical wetting front model. In the case of the near-surface soils at the Cambric Ditch experimental site, water flow and salt accumulation appear to be dominated by rooted vegetation, a mechanism not included within the wetting front model. Simulation results from a two-dimensional vadose groundwater flow model illustrate the dominance of vertical flow in the vadose zone and the recharge of the aquifer with the pumped groundwater. The long-time series of hydrological data provides opportunities to understand contaminant transport processes better in the vadose zone with an appropriate level of modelling.
An analysis of scaling effects is performed to evaluate whether data aggregation is a useful regionalization tool or whether it leads to an unacceptable loss of information. One issue concerns the appropriate resolution of digital elevation models (DEMs) used to derive geomorphological input parameters for hydrological models. In particular, the scale problem of watershed division by a channel network and smaller sub-basins is addressed. The investigation involved commercially available data sets with different horizontal and vertical resolutions and systematically aggregated DEMs. A stream network and the contributing subareas were derived from a DEM with a distinct critical support area. By varying this threshold area various watershed configurations were obtained. The sensitivity of surface runoff simulations to all watershed configurations was studied with synthetic storms and by means of an infiltration excess runoff model.
Interception loss, I, was determined by continuous concurrent measurements of the canopy precipitation balances of a mature seed orchard tree of Pinus radiata, and a dominant tree of Eucalyptus viminalis at a mountainous high rainfall site (900 m a.s.l.) in Tallaganda State Forest of the Upper Shoalhaven Catchment. Approximate canopy storage capacity (Sc) of the pine was 54 l, and that of the eucalypt was 11·3 l. Gross pine I was 26·5 per cent and eucalypt I was 8·3 per cent of total incident rainfall over a period of 18 months, from June 1975 to December 1976. The exponential model that provided the best fit to overall data relating I to gross rainfall (Pg) was of good precision for the pine (r2 = 0·73) but rather poor precision for the eucalypt (r2 = 0·27). A consistent pattern in interception data of the two canopy types suggested that variation in I was related to change in pervasive conditions influencing rates of evaporation from wet canopies during rainfall. Multiple regression analyses confirmed that factors such as rainfall intensity and windspeed explained some of the variation in eucalypt I but little in pine I.
Negative eucalypt I and corresponding low values of pine I over a wide range of Pg (up to 20 mm) suggest that capture of wind-borne precipitation (cloud, mist, or fog) had also complicated the canopy precipitation balances.
The contributions of sediment from different geomorpholigical units within a small basin in the Loess Plateau have been determined using caesium-137 as a tracer. The mean caesium-137 content of sediment originating from the hill area, where sheet and rill erosion are predominant, was 3–37 Bq kg-1, whereas no caesium-137 was detected in the sediment originating from the gully area where gullying and gravitational erosion are predominant. The mean caesium-137 content of sediment from two flood deposits was 0–23 Bq kg-1 and 0–89 Bq kg-1. The relative contribution from the hill area in the two floods was 7 per cent and 26 per cent, whilst that from the gully area was 93 per cent and 74 per cent.
The distribution of soil 137Cs in relation to selected soil and landform properties was studied across a 16 ha hillslope hollow in the Hunter valley, New South Wales, Australia. The hillslope was used as grazing for cattle. Caesium-137 was not significantly related to the amount of sand, silt, or clay, the bulk density, the organic matter content, the slope angle or the relative distance downslope. However, 137Cs was significantly related to the thickness of the soil A horizon. Spatial variations in 137Cs were compared with topographic units and a six-element hillslope model, but there was little correspondence. It was thought that the effects of microtopography could have masked potential interrelationships between 137Cs and broader scale landform parameters.
Soil sampling design, the number of samples collected and the lateral variation of caesium-137 (137Cs) in uneroded reference locations were extracted from previously published work. The focus was on published work which used 137Cs reference inventory (Bq m−2) for qualitative or quantitative estimation of sediment redistribution (SRD) within the landscape. The objective of this study was to address one of the methodological concerns facing the 137Cs technique—that is, the lack of a rigorous statistical treatment of reference locations. The limited attention paid to the reference location is not justified as ‘true’ estimates of SRD are based on the assumption of an unbiased, independent, random probability sample estimate, commonly the arithmetic mean. Results from the literature survey indicated that only 11% of the reference locations sampled for 137Cs expressly stated that a probability sampling design was used (transect or systematic-aligned grid). The remaining locations were generally sampled using a non-probability based design, more commonly known as haphazard sampling. Of the 75 reference study areas identified only 40 provided enough information to determine the dispersion around the mean, and from this the coefficient of variation (CV) was calculated for all available data. The median CV was 19·3%, with 95% confidence limits of 13·0–23.4%, indicating that approximately 11 random, independent samples would generally be necessary to adequately quantify the reference 137Cs area activity with an allowable error of 10% at 90% confidence. Further analysis indicated that only one-third of the studies sampled a sufficient number of 137Cs reference locations. This value would actually be lower as sampling frameworks were based on non-probability sampling procedures. For 137Cs reference locations it is recommended that a probability sampling design be utilized, preferably the systematic-aligned grid method, and as a minimum first-order estimate about 11 samples should be collected for inventory estimates.
Sediment redistribution within near-level agricultural fields in the Gray Wooded soil zone of Saskatchewan was studied using the artificial environmental tracer caesium-137 (137Cs). the objective of this study was to estimate erosion rates caused by wind erosion, and land clearing techniques (i.e. bulldozing). Net rates of erosion and deposition were quantified over the past 30 years on three fields. Wind erosion was estimated to be approximately 1.0 t ha−1 y−1 on a near-level field, with 50 per cent of the sampling sites having erosion rates in excess of soil formation. Bulldozing produced median net sediment flux values of between 40 and 90 t ha−1 y−1. in addition, between 65 and 85 per cent of the sampling sites had erosion rates in excess of the maximum tolerable limit (i.e. 11.0 t ha−1 y−1). These results indicate significant accelerated erosion results from land clearing techniques used in central Saskatchewan. Bulldozing of the fields removed the LFH-horizon and exposed the underlying mineral horizon. Bulk densitites of the 0 to 15 cm layer in the cleared fields were 27 to 55 per cent greater than the comparable depth increment within the undisturbed forest site. Organic carbon concentrations within the 1930s, 1979, and 1987 fields were decreased by 47, 42, and 37 per cent, respectively following cultivation and bulldozing. Decreases in total nitrogen for the cultivated fields ranged from 33 to 38 per cent.
The 137Cs radioactivity of soils was used as a tracer of soil erosion in a catchment in the Netherlands: 143 samples were analysed to map the 137Cs redistribution using geostatistical interpolation methods. Caesium-137 activities on grassland are significantly higher than on arable land. Also, 137Cs activities on waning slopes are higher and activities on steep slopes are lower. The soil erosion estimates, derived from the 137Cs data, are used to validate the USLE erosion model. The recent Chernobyl nuclear accident also contributed to the 137Cs activity. However, the Chernobyl input of 137Cs, with a constant ratio of 1.765:1 to 134Cs, cannot be used as a tracer of soil erosion. Because of the rapid decay of 134Cs, we will not be possible to separate the sources of 137Cs in the near future in areas significantly influenced by Chernobyl fallout and in these areas 137Cs can no longer be used as a soil erosion tracer.
Sediment cores (collected from nine headwater lakes and reservoirs in their catchments and adjacent areas and from ten floodplain sites in the middle and lower reaches of the two river systems) have been used to reconstruct changes in suspended sediment yields, rates of sedimentation and suspended sediment sources for the Ouse and Tweed catchments in the UK over the last ca 100–150 years in response to recent environmental change. For the small lake/reservoir catchments in or adjacent to the Ouse basin, average sediment yields for the recent period (1963–95) were generally found to exceed those for the period prior to 1963, by up to 94%, suggesting that sediment yields have increased over time. For the equivalent lake/reservoir catchments in and adjacent to the Tweed basin, sediment yields were generally lower in the period since 1963. In both basins, sediment yields over the past 100–150 years were characterized by considerable temporal variability, which was seen to reflect, at least in part, the significant changes in land use and land management that occurred within their catchments. No clear links between the variability of sediment yields and changes in climate were apparent. Changes in sediment source reconstructed for one of the lakes appeared primarily to reflect catchment disturbance during afforestation in the 1940s. Average rates of overbank sedimentation for the ten floodplain sites varied considerably between sites. For those cores collected from the Ouse basin there was no consistent temporal trend, and average sedimentation rates for the period extending from ca 1895 to 1963 were broadly similar to those for the period since 1963. For the Tweed basin, sedimentation rates for all three cores were higher prior to 1963, reflecting the increased soil erosion and sediment yields associated with the conversion of pasture to arable land in the immediate post-World War II period and the ditching and planting operations associated with afforestation in the 1940s. Substantial downcore variability in the source of the overbank sediment, considered in terms of both source type and spatial location, was found in both river basins. This was seen to reflect land-use change, including land drainage, the conversion of pasture to arable land, afforestation, and increased cereal production. The evidence provided by the floodplain cores again showed little indication of any influence linked to climate change.
Although the detailed patterns of temporal variation of sediment yield, overbank sedimentation rate and sediment source reconstructed from the sediment cores collected from the lake/reservoirs and floodplain locations are site specific, there is a general consistency between the changes in sediment dynamics reconstructed for the headwater catchments (based on the cores collected from the lakes and reservoirs) and the equivalent evidence for the middle and lowland reaches of the catchments (provided by overbank floodplain deposits). Despite significant changes in climate, and, more particularly, land use over this time period, the general lack of evidence of substantial changes in downstream sediment yield and rates of overbank sedimentation over the last ca 100–150 years in the Ouse and Tweed basins suggests that their sediment dynamics have been generally insensitive to recent environmental change. This finding has important implications when considering the likely response of these, and similar, UK river basins to future environmental change. Copyright
Hydrological and biogeochemical relationships were evaluated for the Arbutus Watershed in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. Wet-only precipitation inputs (weekly) and discharge losses were evaluated from 1983 to 1998. Precipitation from 1983–98 had significant (p<0·05) decreases in concentrations of Ca²⁺(−0·10µmolcl⁻¹year⁻¹), Mg²⁺(−0·07µmolcl⁻¹year⁻¹), K⁺(−0·01µmolcl⁻¹year⁻¹), Na⁺(−0·04µmolcl⁻¹year⁻¹), Cl⁻(−0·07µmolc l⁻¹year⁻¹), SO4²⁻(−0·82µmolcl⁻¹year⁻¹) and H⁺(−0·55µmolcl⁻¹year⁻¹), whereas NH4⁺ and NO3⁻ concentrations did not change.
We report a quantitative analysis of regional differences in the the oxygen isotope composition of river water and precipitation across the USA because data are now available to undertake a more geographically and temporally extensive analysis than was formerly possible. Maps of modern, mean annual δ18O values for both precipitation (δ18OPPT) and river water (δ18ORIV) across the 48 contiguous states of the USA have been generated using latitude and elevation as the primary predictors of stable isotope composition while also incorporating regional and local deviations based on available isotopic data. The difference between these two maps was calculated to determine regions where δ18ORIV is significantly offset from local δ18OPPT. Additional maps depicting seasonal and extreme values for δ18ORIV and δ18OPPT were also constructed.
This exercise confirms the presence of regions characterized by differences in δ18ORIV and δ18OPPT and specifically identifies the magnitude and regional extent of these offsets. In particular, the Great Plains has δ18ORIV values that are more positive than precipitation, while much of the western USA is characterized by significantly lower δ18ORIV values in comparison with local δ18OPPT. The most salient feature that emerged from this comparison is the ‘catchment effect’ for the rivers. Because river water is largely derived from precipitation that fell upstream of the sample locality (i.e. at higher elevations) δ18ORIV values are often lower than local δ18OPPT values, particularly in catchments with high-elevation gradients. Seasonal patterns in the isotopic data substantiate the generally accepted notion that amplitudes of δ18O variation are greatly dampened in river water relative to those of local precipitation. Copyright
Reconstruction of continental palaeoclimate and palaeohydrology is currently hampered by limited information about isotopic patterns in the modern hydrologic cycle. To remedy this situation and to provide baseline data for other isotope hydrology studies, more than 4800, depth- and width-integrated, stream samples from 391 selected sites within the USGS National Stream Quality Accounting Network (NASQAN) and Hydrologic Benchmark Network (HBN) were analysed for δ¹⁸O and δ²H (http://water.usgs.gov/pubs/ofr/ofr00-160/pdf/ofr00-160.pdf). Each site was sampled bimonthly or quarterly for 2·5 to 3 years between 1984 and 1987. The ability of this dataset to serve as a proxy for the isotopic composition of modern precipitation in the USA is supported by the excellent agreement between the river dataset and the isotopic compositions of adjacent precipitation monitoring sites, the strong spatial coherence of the distributions of δ¹⁸O and δ²H, the good correlations of the isotopic compositions with climatic parameters, and the good agreement between the ‘national’ meteoric water line (MWL) generated from unweighted analyses of samples from the 48 contiguous states of δ²H=8·11δ¹⁸O+8·99 (r²=0·98) and the unweighted global MWL of sites from the Global Network for Isotopes in Precipitation (GNIP) of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) of δ²H=8·17δ¹⁸O+10·35.
A combination of hydrometric data and observations of natural isotope (oxygen-18) variations in saturation overland flow and stream discharge were used to investigate the sources of storm run-off in a headwater swamp located in a permanent groundwater discharge zone near Toronto, Canada. The results of a two-component hydrograph separation indicated that pre-event water formed 80–90% of the stream hydrograph volume for six of the seven storms analyzed in June–November 1990. However, the instantaneous event water contribution showed considerable variability, ranging from maximum values of 20–25% for four moderate intensity storms to 63% for a high intensity thunderstorm with a return period of two years. The relative contribution of event and pre-event water to storm run-off from saturated areas and small streamlets within the swamp was similar to the main outlet stream. The dominance of pre-event water during storms could be accounted for by the mixing of a small volume of event water with a large pool of pre-event water on the surface of permanently saturated areas within the swamp. Occasional storms of high intensity or long duration produced a greater shift towards an event water signature in the saturated areas and a larger event water contribution to the outlet stream hydrograph.
The differences between δ18O in throughfall and open rainfall were studied for 16 selected spring and summer storms in deciduous, pine and spruce forests in central Pennsylvania, USA. Throughfall δ18O averaged 0.17, 0.32 and 0.24%o greater than δ18O of open rainfall for all storms at the deciduous, pine and spruce sites, respectively. Throughfall 18O enrichment was greater in low intensity spring rainfall events than higher intensity growing season storms and greater in the coniferous stands than the deciduous hardwood stand. Maximum throughfall 18O enrichment of l.61%o occurred in the spruce forest during one spring event. The differences between rainfall and throughfall 18O observed in this study for individual storm events may have important implications for isotope flow separation studies.
Twenty-three snow-course sites in and near Maine, USA, with records spanning at least 50 years through to 2004 were tested for changes over time in snowpack depth, water equivalent, and density in March and April. Of the 23 sites, 18 had a significant decrease (Mann-Kendall test, p < 0·1) in snowpack depth or a significant increase in snowpack density over time. Data from four sites in the mountains of western Maine–northern New Hampshire with mostly complete records from 1926 to 2004 indicate that average snowpack depths have decreased by about 16% and densities have increased by about 11%. Average snowpack depths and water equivalents in western Maine–northern New Hampshire peaked in the 1950s and 1960s, and densities peaked in the most recent decade. Previous studies in western North America also found a water-equivalent peak in the third quarter of the 20th century. Published in 2006 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Before 1900, the Missouri–Mississippi River system transported an estimated 400 million metric tons per year of sediment from the interior of the United States to coastal Louisiana. During the last two decades (1987–2006), this transport has averaged 145 million metric tons per year. The cause for this substantial decrease in sediment has been attributed to the trapping characteristics of dams constructed on the muddy part of the Missouri River during the 1950s. However, reexamination of more than 60 years of water- and sediment-discharge data indicates that the dams alone are not the sole cause. These dams trap about 100–150 million metric tons per year, which represent about half the decrease in sediment discharge near the mouth of the Mississippi. Changes in relations between water discharge and suspended-sediment concentration suggest that the Missouri–Mississippi has been transformed from a transport-limited to a supply-limited system. Thus, other engineering activities such as meander cutoffs, river-training structures, and bank revetments as well as soil erosion controls have trapped sediment, eliminated sediment sources, or protected sediment that was once available for transport episodically throughout the year. Removing major engineering structures such as dams probably would not restore sediment discharges to pre-1900 state, mainly because of the numerous smaller engineering structures and other soil-retention works throughout the Missouri–Mississippi system. Published in 2009 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.