Direct channel precipitation and storm type influence short-term fallout radionuclide assessment of sediment source

Water Resources Research
By: , and 

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Abstract

Fallout radionuclides (FRNs) and their ratios, such as Beryllium‐7 (7Be) and excess Lead‐210 (210Pbxs), have been used to determine suspended sediment source and age in catchments. These models are based on numerous assumptions, for example, that channel deposition of FRNs from precipitation is negligible in comparison to their delivery to the channel from land surface erosion during individual storm events. We test this assumption using a mass balance approach during eight storms from summer 2011 to fall 2012 in a mid‐Atlantic United States piedmont region watershed with mixed land use. Event peak discharge and storm type corresponded to the importance of direct channel FRN deposition from precipitation. During relatively low discharge summer thunderstorms, with minimal overland flow, less than 1% of 7Be and 210Pbxs flux deposited on the watershed exits the watershed associated with suspended sediment. The majority but not all deposited on the stream channel exits the watershed associated with suspended sediment (60% of 7Be and 80% of 210Pbxs). Here precipitation and throughfall onto the wetted channel area can be responsible for any FRN newly associated with suspended sediment, as opposed to landscape surface erosion. Furthermore, FRNs can be stored with sediments in the channel between events. Events with higher discharges, including hurricanes, show the opposite pattern—FRN flux associated with suspended sediment exported from the reach is greater than channel FRN wet deposition, suggesting net erosion from the watershed landscape and/or stored material during these types of storms.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Direct channel precipitation and storm type influence short-term fallout radionuclide assessment of sediment source
Series title Water Resources Research
DOI 10.1029/2017WR021684
Volume 54
Issue 7
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Contributing office(s) National Research Program - Eastern Branch
Description 16 p.
First page 4579
Last page 4594