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Time series of the tritium concentration (TU) in precipitation (a) obtained at Tokyo and Tsukuba, Japan (Shimada et al 1994)

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posted on 2013-09-11, 00:00 authored by Tetsuya Hiyama, Kazuyoshi Asai, Alexander B Kolesnikov, Leonid A Gagarin, Victor V Shepelev

Figure 2. Time series of the tritium concentration (TU) in precipitation (a) obtained at Tokyo and Tsukuba, Japan (Shimada et al 1994). Also shown are the atmospheric CFCs concentrations ((a) and (b)) and the atmospheric SF6 concentration (b) observed by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) over North America (


Detection of changes in the hydrological cycles of permafrost regions is a critical issue in hydrology. Better understanding of groundwater dynamics in permafrost regions is needed to assess the vulnerability of the cryolithic water environment to changing climate. However, little is known about the age of groundwater in the Siberian Arctic region. In order to determine the residence time of permafrost groundwater in eastern Siberia, transient tracers including tritium (3H), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) were used to analyze a mixture of supra-permafrost and intra-permafrost groundwater in the middle of the Lena River basin. Tritium analyses showed that the concentration ranges from 1.0 to 16.8 TU, and the apparent age of groundwater ranged from around 1 to 55 years. One of the spring waters appeared to contain more than 90% water recharged by precipitation before the 1960s nuclear testing era, and the water could be partly sourced from thawing permafrost. Comparisons of apparent groundwater ages estimated from different tracers imply that 3H and CFC-12 are the most applicable to groundwater vulnerability assessments in this region. Because the apparent age is a mixture of those from supra-permafrost and intra-permafrost groundwater, further analysis would be required to assess the contribution ratio of the two types of groundwater.