Extended time series measurements of submarine groundwater discharge tracers (222Rn and CH4) at a coastal site in Florida

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Santos, IR, Dimova, N, Peterson, RN, Mwashote, B, Chanton, J & Burnett, WC 2009, 'Extended time series measurements of submarine groundwater discharge tracers (222Rn and CH4) at a coastal site in Florida', Marine Chemistry, vol. 113, no. 1-2, pp. 137-147.

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We report the results of an experiment in which we measured 222Rn (15,000 observations), CH4 (40,000 observations), and associated variables in seawater nearly continuously at a coastal site in the Gulf of Mexico for almost two years. Significant correlations between 222Rn and CH4 imply that they are derived from a common source, most likely groundwater. However, we were unable to explain the overall tracer variability as a single function of groundwater table height, temperature, tidal range, and wind speed, indicating multiple, overlapping controls on SGD dynamics at this site. Methane and radon concentrations may vary 2-fold in a given well in the subterranean estuary over tidal time scales, demonstrating the complexity of determining SGD endmember concentrations and suggesting that unaccounted for temporal changes in groundwater may explain some of the patterns observed in seawater. Surprisingly, the variability of 222Rn and CH4 in seawater over short (e.g., hourly) time scales was generally comparable to or even more pronounced than fluctuations over much longer (e.g., monthly) scales. While high tracer concentrations usually occurred during low tide and low tracer concentrations during high tide, this pattern was occasionally inverted or absent indicating that no single model can be used to describe the entire data set. We also describe a sequence of events in which SGD tracers were depleted in coastal waters during storms and regenerated afterwards. We found no increase in radon activities immediately after the largest storm (75 mm rainfall) perhaps because of the short residence times of groundwater in contrast to the ingrowth time of radon. Marine controls appeared to be the most important SGD drivers with only minor influence relating to the shallow and deep aquifers. This implies that seasonal investigations of SGD tracers in the coastal ocean may be masked by short-term variability.