In February 2009 and August 2009, the spatial distribution of radon-222 in surface water was mapped along the west-central Florida shelf as collaboration between the Response of Florida Shelf Ecosystems to Climate Change project and a U.S. Geological Survey Mendenhall Research Fellowship project. This report summarizes the surface distribution of radon-222 from two cruises and evaluates potential physical controls on radon-222 fluxes. Radon-222 is an inert gas produced overwhelmingly in sediment and has a short half-life of 3.8 days; activities in surface water ranged between 30 and 170 becquerels per cubic meter. Overall, radon-222 activities were enriched in nearshore surface waters relative to offshore waters. Dilution in offshore waters is expected to be the cause of the low offshore activities. While thermal stratification of the water column during the August survey may explain higher radon-222 activities relative to the February survey, radon-222 activity and integrated surface-water inventories decreased exponentially from the shoreline during both cruises. By estimating radon-222 evasion by wind from nearby buoy data and accounting for internal production from dissolved radium-226, its radiogenic long-lived parent, a simple one-dimensional model was implemented to determine the role that offshore mixing, benthic influx, and decay have on the distribution of excess radon-222 inventories along the west Florida shelf. For multiple statistically based boundary condition scenarios (first quartile, median, third quartile, and maximum radon-222 inshore of 5 kilometers), the cross-shelf mixing rates and average nearshore submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) rates varied from 100.38 to 10-3.4 square kilometers per day and 0.00 to 1.70 centimeters per day, respectively. This dataset and modeling provide the first attempt to assess cross-shelf mixing and SGD on such a large spatial scale. Such estimates help scale up SGD rates that are often made at 1- to 10-meter resolution to a coarser but more regionally applicable scale of 1- to 10-kilometer resolution. More stringent analyses and model evaluation are required, but results and analyses presented in this report provide the foundation for conducting a more rigorous statistical assessment.
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USGS Numbered Series
Surface-water radon-222 distribution along the west-central Florida shelf