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Isotope tracer methods were used to determine flow paths, recharge areas, and relative age for groundwater in the Kilauea volcano area of the Island of Hawaii. A network of up to 66 precipitation collectors was emplaced in the study area and sampled twice yearly for a 3-year period. Stable isotopes in rainfall show three distinct isotopic gradients with elevation, which are correlated with trade wind, rain shadow, and high- elevation climatological patterns. Temporal variations in precipitation isotopes are controlled more by the frequency of storms than by seasonal temperature fluctuations. Results from this study suggest that (1) sampling network design must take into account areal variations in rainfall patterns on islands and in continental coastal areas and (2) isotope/elevation gradients on other tropical islands may be predictable on the basis of similar climatology. Groundwater was sampled yearly in coastal springs, wells, and a few high-elevation springs. Areal contrasts in groundwater stable isotopes and tritium indicate that the volcanic rift zones compartmentalize the regional groundwater system, isolating the groundwater south of Kilauea's summit and rift zones. Part of the Southwest Rift gone appears to act as a conduit for water from higher elevation, but there is no evidence for downrift flow in the springs and shallow wells sampled in the lower East Rift Zone.
Additional Publication Details
Use of precipitation and groundwater isotopes to interpret regional hydrology on a tropical volcanic island: Kilauea volcano area, Hawaii