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Natural radium and radon tracers to quantify water exchange and movement in reservoirs

January 1, 2011

Radon and radium isotopes are routinely used to quantify exchange rates between different hydrologic reservoirs. Since their recognition as oceanic tracers in the 1960s, both radon and radium have been used to examine processes such as air-sea exchange, deep oceanic mixing, benthic inputs, and many others. Recently, the application of radon-222 and the radium-quartet (223,224,226,228Ra) as coastal tracers has seen a revelation with the growing interest in coastal groundwater dynamics. The enrichment of these isotopes in benthic fluids including groundwater makes both radium and radon ideal tracers of coastal benthic processes (e.g. submarine groundwater discharge). In this chapter we review traditional and recent advances in the application of radon and radium isotopes to understand mixing and exchange between various hydrologic reservoirs, specifically: (1) atmosphere and ocean, (2) deep and shallow oceanic water masses, (3) coastal groundwater/benthic pore waters and surface ocean, and (4) aquifer-lakes. While the isotopes themselves and their distribution in the environment provide qualitative information about the exchange processes, it is mixing/exchange and transport models for these isotopes that provide specific quantitative information about these processes. Brief introductions of these models and mixing parameters are provided for both historical and more recent studies.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2011
Title Natural radium and radon tracers to quantify water exchange and movement in reservoirs
DOI
Authors Christopher G. Smith
Publication Type Book Chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Series Title
Series Number
Index ID 70157933
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center