Journal cover Journal topic
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
doi:10.5194/hess-2016-393
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
05 Sep 2016
The potential uses of tracer cycles for groundwater dating in heterogeneous aquifers
Julien Farlin1 and Piotr Małoszewski2 1LIST Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology, ERIN department, 41, rue du Brill, L-4422 Belvaux, Luxembourg
2AGH University of Science and Technology Cracow, department of Hydrogeology and Engineering Geology, Al. Mickiewicza 30, 30-059 Cracow, Poland
Abstract. The use of the annual cycles of stable isotopes to estimate the parameters of transit time distribution functions has been recently criticised by Kirchner (2016). The author shows that the mean residence time of heterogeneous catchments calculated from the damping of the amplitude of the input signal are very often over-estimates, sometimes by large factors. We show here that the overestimation depends on the relative time scales of the cycle’s frequency and the mean transit time and that tracer cycles can still be used, at least for groundwater systems sustained by baseflow.

Firstly it appears that an exponential model is a good approximation for the transit time distribution of a heterogeneous groundwatershed if the subgroundwatersheds’ transit time distributions are themselves exponential and their mean transit times are in the same range or slightly higher than the period of the tracer cycle.

Secondly, we suggest that tracer cycles can still be used as secondary data to test whether the degree of heterogeneity of the subsurface is small enough to warrant approximating it by a homogeneous medium.

Lastly, we develop a model predicting the amplitude of groundwater temperature from the annual air temperature cycle, and show that even though temperature is not a conservative tracer, it can be useful for groundwater dating. The potential use of the temperature cycle is illustrated in the case-study of a sandstone aquifer drained by contact springs.

The discussion paper was formally withdrawn.


Citation: Farlin, J. and Małoszewski, P.: The potential uses of tracer cycles for groundwater dating in heterogeneous aquifers, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss., doi:10.5194/hess-2016-393, 2016.
Julien Farlin and Piotr Małoszewski
Interactive discussionStatus: closed
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
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RC1: 'Reviewer’s comments for HESS-2016-393', Anonymous Referee #1, 28 Sep 2016 Printer-friendly Version 
 
RC2: 'Comments on hess-2016-393', Anonymous Referee #2, 05 Dec 2016 Printer-friendly Version 
 
AC1: 'answer to the reviews', Julien Farlin, 02 Jan 2017 Printer-friendly Version 
Julien Farlin and Piotr Małoszewski
Julien Farlin and Piotr Małoszewski

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Short summary
This article explores how differences in groundwater flow velocities caused by more or less permeable rocks affects the overall reaction of an aquifer compared to a simpler model assuming no differences in permeability. We found that the effect is small as long as these differences are not extreme, and that it is possible to use the annual variation in water temperature infiltrating the aquifer to parameterise accurately the simple model.
This article explores how differences in groundwater flow velocities caused by more or less...
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