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Physics of Aquatic Systems II Werner Aeschbach-Hertig 1.1 2006

Summary: Physics of Aquatic Systems II
Werner Aeschbach-Hertig 1.1 2006
1. Introduction to Isotopes and Hydrology
1.1 Introduction to Isotope Hydrology
"Isotope Hydrology" is a relatively young scientific discipline (or rather an interdisciplinary
field), that evolved since around the 1950s, when it was first realised the methods of nuclear
physics for the detection of isotopes could have useful applications in hydrology. The
classical tools of isotope hydrology are the isotopes of the constituents of the water molecule
(H2O) itself, namely the rare stable isotopes of hydrogen and oxygen (2
H, 18
O) and the
radioactive tritium (3
H). These were soon complemented by radiocarbon (14
C), which
enabled water dating via the decay of 14
C in the carbon dissolved in the water.
Later on, many more methods were added to the toolbox of the isotope hydrologists, some of
which are not really isotope methods at all. For example, dissolved gases such as noble gases
and certain anthropogenic trace gases are very useful markers to "trace" the fate of water in


Source: Aeschbach-Hertig, Werner - Institut für Umweltphysik, Universität Heidelberg


Collections: Geosciences; Environmental Sciences and Ecology