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Distribution of Gaseous 12CO2, 13CO2, and 14CO2 in the Sub-Soil Unsaturated Zone of the Western US Great Plains

  • D C Thorstenson (a1), E P Weeks (a2), Herbert Haas (a3) and D W Fisher (a1)

Abstract

Data on the depth distribution of the major atmospheric gases and the abundance of gaseous 12CO2, 13CO2, and 14CO2 in the subsoil unsaturated zone have been obtained from several sites in the western Great Plains of the United States. Sample profiles range from land surface to depths of 50m. Although each site must be considered on an individual basis, several general statements can be made regarding the profiles. 1) Diffusion of these gaseous molecules through the unsaturated zone is an important transport mechanism. 2) As predicted by diffusion theory, depth profiles of the various isotopic species of CO2 differ substantially from one another, depending on individual sources and sinks such as root respiration and oxidation of organic carbon at depth. 3) In general, post-bomb (> 100% modern) 14C activities are not observed in the deep unsaturated zone, in contrast to diffusion model predictions. 4) In spite of generally decreasing 14C activities with depth, absolute partial pressures of 14CO2 in the subsoil unsaturated zone are 1–2 orders of magnitude higher than the partial pressure of 14CO2 in the atmosphere.

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References

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