The seven major dissolved ions in streams-sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, chloride, sulfate, and bicarbonate and their sum dissolved solids from 56 basins in the conterminous United States and Hawaii were correlated with bedrock type, annual precipitation, population density, and average stream temperature of their respective basins through multiple linear-regression equations to predict annual yields. The study was restricted to basins underlain by limestone, sandstone, or crystalline rock. Depending on the constituent, yields ranged from about 10 to 100,000 kilograms per square kilometer. Predicted yields were within 1 order of magnitude of measured yields.
The most important factor in yield prediction was annual precipitation, which accounted for 58 to 71 percent of all yields. Rock type was second in importance. Yields of magnesium, calcium, bicarbonate, and dissolved solids from limestone basins were 4 to 10 times larger than those from sandstone or crystalline basins as a result of carbonate weathering. Population density was an ineffective indicator of all constituents except sodium and chloride; it accounted for 13 percent of the annual sodium yield and 20 percent of the annual chloride yield. Average stream temperature was significant only for calcium and bicarbonate in limestone basins. Its relationship with yields was consistently negative. Either carbonate dissolution increases at low temperatures, or weathering in northern basins, which contain glacial deposits and have the lowest stream temperatures, is greater than in southern basins.
Average ion contributions from atmospheric deposition accounted for 30 percent of the sodium and chloride and 60 percent of the sulfate in annual yields. The amount of sulfate derived from atmospheric contributions was higher in sandstone and crystalline basins (65 and 80 percent, respectively) than limestone basins (38 percent). This disparity is attributed to the lack of available sulfate in crystalline rock and the chemical precipitation of sulfate in the sandstone basins, most of which are in semi-arid or arid areas.
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USGS Numbered Series
Evaluation of environmental factors affecting yields of major dissolved ions of streams in the United States