Natural Radium and Radon Tracers to Quantify Water Exchange and Movement in Reservoirs

  • C. G. SmithEmail author
  • P. W. Swarzenski
  • N. T. Dimova
  • J. Zhang
Part of the Advances in Isotope Geochemistry book series (ADISOTOPE)


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.


Radon Concentration Submarine Groundwater Discharge Surface Mixed Layer Radium Isotope Coastal Groundwater 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to thank Christopher Conaway and Nancy Prouty of the U.S. Geological Survey for reviewing this manuscript prior to publication; their comments and suggestions added greatly to this document. We would also like to thank William Burnett for his comments and suggestions that improved the quality of this manuscript. Any use of trade names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Geological Survey.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. G. Smith
    • 1
    Email author
  • P. W. Swarzenski
    • 2
  • N. T. Dimova
    • 3
  • J. Zhang
    • 4
  1. 1.US Geological SurveySt. PetersburgUSA
  2. 2.US Geological SurveySanta CruzUSA
  3. 3.UC-Santa Cruz/US Geological SurveySanta CruzUSA
  4. 4.State Key Laboratory of Estuarine and Coastal ResearchEast China Normal UniversityShanghaiChina

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