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The sources and fate of radiocarbon (14C) in the Dead Sea hypersaline solution are evaluated with 14C measurements in organic debris and primary aragonite collected from exposures of the Holocene Ze’elim Formation. The reservoir age (RA) is defined as the difference between the radiocarbon age of the aragonite at time of its precipitation (representing lakeʼs dissolved inorganic carbon [DIC]) and the age of contemporaneous organic debris (representing atmospheric radiocarbon). Evaluation of the data for the past 6000 yr from Dead Sea sediments reveal that the lakeʼs RA decreased from 2890 yr at 6 cal kyr BP to 2300 yr at present. The RA lies at ~2400 yr during the past 3000 yr, when the lake was characterized by continuous deposition of primary aragonite, which implies a continuous supply of freshwater-bicarbonate into the lake. This process reflects the overall stability of the hydrological-climate conditions in the lakeʼs watershed during the late Holocene where bicarbonate originated from dissolution of the surface cover in the watershed that was transported to the Dead Sea by the freshwater runoff. An excellent correlation (R2=0.98) exists between aragonite ages and contemporaneous organic debris, allowing the estimation of ages of various primary deposits where organic debris are not available.
Radiocarbon (14C) activity in groundwater can be used to determine subsurface residence time up to ∼40 kyr, providing crucial information on dynamic properties of groundwater and on paleoclimate. However, commonly applied sampling methods for dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC-14C) are prone to low level of modern atmospheric contamination, resulting in underestimation of groundwater ages that cluster around 30–40 kyr. We extract CO2 gas from groundwater using a device originally developed for studies of noble gas radionuclides. Carbon is collected in the gas phase, eliminating the possibility of fostering microbial activities and aqueous chemical reactions during sample storage. This method collects CO2-14C and radiokrypton (81Kr and 85Kr) samples simultaneously. The presence of any shorter-lived 85Kr is used to evaluate the degree of atmospheric contamination during sampling or mixing of young groundwater. Most groundwater samples showed lower CO2-14C activities than those of DIC-14C, presumably due to the absence of atmospheric contamination. Samples with 81Kr age exceeding 150 kyr have no detectable CO2-14C except where mixing sources of young groundwater is suspected. These field data serve as confirmations for the reliability of the newly presented sample collection and CO2-14C method, and for the outstanding roles of radiokrypton isotopes in characterizing old groundwater.
The Dead Sea is surrounded by chemical and detrital sediments that were deposited in its larger precursor lakes, Lake Samra and Lake Lisan. The sedimentary history of these lakes was recon-structed by means of 230Th/234U ages of 30 samples, mostly of argonite laminae, from 8 columnar sections up to 110 km apart. The general validity of the ages was demonstrated by subjecting them to tests of internal isotopic consistency, agreement with stratigraphic order, and concordance with 14C ages. In the south, only the part of the Samra Formation older than 170,000 yr is exposed, while the aragonite-detritus rhythmites found in the central and northern region are generally younger than 120,000 yr. The Lisan Formation started accumulating about 63,000 yr B.P., with the clay and aragonite beds in the south-central area reflecting a rise in water level to at least −280 m. The upper part of the Lisan Formation, the aragonite-rich White Cliff Member, started accumulating about 36,000 yr B.P. The lake probably reached its highest level sometime after this, based on the ages of Lisan sediments preserved in the southernmost reaches of the basin.
Radiocarbon values of groundwater in main aquifers of the extremely arid Negev Desert and the Arava Valley, southern Israel, are used for studying the underground flow regime, particularly the complex connections between different aquifers and mixing of water bodies. The study shows that 14C can serve as a hydrological tracer in arid environments and that groundwater dating may be possible (although not very accurate) even in this extremely arid environment (precipitation, <50 mm/yr), where there is almost no vegetation. There are several aquifers in this region, some of which are deep (deeper than 500 m) and regional and contain mainly fossil water, while others are local and restricted to the Arava, much shallower (50–200 m) and are thought to contain historical to recent waters. Most of the current recharge to these shallow unconsolidated aquifers comes from flash floods that flow from the mountains rising on both sides of the valley. The groundwater in the deep aquifers has low 14C values (usually <5 pMC), implying old ages (preliminary ages >26,000 yr). Groundwater in the shallow aquifers characterized by higher 14C values (up to 60–70 pMC) imply younger ages and faster groundwater flow (recent recharge). This is also supported by the presence of tritium in some of the samples. A few exceptional values are explained by the unique mixing of water from different sources; another is due to a technical failure in the well.
Due to its possible role in solid/water carbon isotope exchange, the effect of salinity on radiocarbon dating of groundwater was examined by batch interaction of alluvial sediment and calcite powder with freshwater (Cl– = 100 mg L–1) and Dead Sea (DS) brine (Cl– = 225 g L–1). These 2 water types were spiked with H13CO3– tracer and kept under constant agitation for about 1 yr. Several bottles were respiked twice with the tracer. The uptake of the 13C by calcite was monitored through repeated isotopic measurements of the aqueous solutions, and the effect on 14C groundwater dating was evaluated using a simple transport reaction model. The results indicate that the kinetics of water/calcite isotope exchange start with a very fast initial step followed by a slower one, which was used here to simulate the long-term water/solid exchange in “real” aquifers. The exchange model that best fits the data was homogeneous recrystallization that formed just a very thin layer of newly formed calcite. The estimated recrystallization rates for calcite powder/solution interaction were much smaller for the DS brine than for freshwater: 3 × 10–5 to 7 × 10–6 and 9 × 10–4 to 7 × 10–5 mol m2 yr–1, respectively. The 13C experimental data imply a very small effect of the brine/calcite isotope exchange on the 14C age estimate for the brines within the DS coastal aquifer. However, when calcite recrystallization reaches ∼1% of the solid, the 14C groundwater dating estimates will show aging by ∼10%.
This work presents an attempt to date brines and determine flow rates of hypersaline groundwater in the extremely dynamic system of the Dead Sea (DS), whose level has dropped in the last 30 yr by ∼20 m. The processes that affect the carbon species and isotopes of the groundwater in the DS area were quantified in order to estimate their flow rate based on radiocarbon and tritium methods. In contrast to the conservative behavior of most ions in the groundwater, the carbon system parameters indicate additional processes. The dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) content of most saline groundwater is close to that of the DS, but its stable isotopic composition (δ13CDIC) is much lower. The chemical composition and carbon isotope mass balance suggest that the low δ13CDIC of the saline groundwater is a result of anaerobic organic matter oxidation by bacterial sulfate reduction (BSR) and methane oxidation. The radiocarbon content (14CDIC) of the saline groundwater ranged from 86 pMC (greater than the ∼82 pMC value of the DS in the 2000s) to as low as 14 pMC. The similarity between the 14CDIC value and Na/Cl ratio of the groundwater at the DS shore and that of the 1980s DS brine indicates that the DS penetrated to the aquifer at that time. The low 14CDIC values in some of the saline groundwater suggest the existence of ancient brine in the subaquifer.
Carbon isotopic and chemical compositions of freshwaters feeding the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee (i.e. perennial streams and floods along their stream profiles) were used to constrain the factors that dictate the reservoir ages (RA) of these lakes and the last glacial Lake Lisan. Runoff waters are characterized by high Ca2+, Mg2+, alkalinity, and radiocarbon contents (67–108 pMC), suggesting a major role for 14C atmospheric exchange reactions (carbonate rock dissolution alone will result in lower pMC values). These exchange processes were corroborated by dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and δ13C trends throughout the flood profile. During the evolution from rain to incipient runoff, the 14CDIC of the water increases and is accompanied by a DIC increase and δ13CDIC decrease, suggesting an addition of soil CO2, which is characterized by light δ13C and high 14C content. When incipient runoffs evolve to floods, the opposite trends are observed.
It appears that the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea, and its last glacial precursor, Lake Lisan, maintained uniform but specific RAs of 0.8 ± 0.1, 2.3 ± 0.1, and 1.6 ± 0.3 kyr, respectively. However, applying the 14C contents of modern Dead Sea water sources to the water mass balance of Lake Lisan reveals that the RA of Lake Lisan is higher than that predicted by the mass balance. This discrepancy may reflect enhanced dissolution of carbonatic dust, changes in the amount of 14C exchanged in Judean Desert floods, or variations in the contribution of brine and saline springs. Furthermore, the small fluctuations in the Lisan RA (1.6 ± 0.3 kyr) may reflect small, short-term changes in the relative contributions of these sources.
Five radiocarbon analyses were performed on 5 different sources within Soreq Cave, which was used as a model for the Judea Group Aquifer of Israel (pMCq0). The transit time of rainwater through the roof of the cave to sources within it had been determined with tritium. From this information, the year of deposition of rain on the roof of the cave, which later appeared in one of the sources, was estimated and the atmospheric 14C concentration at that time was ascertained (pMCa0). The parameter Q = pMCq0 / pMCa0 was found to be Q = 0.60 ± 0.04. This makes it possible to calculate the age of water in any well in the Judea Group Aquifer of Israel by measuring its 14C concentration (pMCqt) by use of the decay equation and applying Q.
Two simple algorithms are suggested here to correct for the effect of diffusion and diagenetic sulfate reduction on radiocarbon age determination of marine porewater. The correction algorithms were developed from mass balances of sulfate, dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), and 14C of the DIC (14CDIC) in vertical concentrations profiles in porewater starting from the sediment water interface. The algorithms were tested on data collected during our recent study of sediment porewaters extracted from the deep Eastern Mediterranean. The real ages of these porewaters varied from present (top of the core) to approximately 30 ka BP (bottom of the core) covering most of the dynamic range of the 14C method (approximately 5 half lives). These ages were markedly older than the ages calculated from 14CDIC analyses by the regular age equation.
It is clearly demonstrated that in this case the correction of the apparent age for diffusion across the sediment/water interface is overwhelmingly larger than the correction for the effect of sulfate reduction. The correction for the effect of 14C diffusion alone results in a perfect match between the calculated apparent 14C ages and the real ages of porewater and therefore is the preferred algorithm for correcting apparent ages of porewater.
The spatial variation in radiocarbon concentration was studied in the Coastal Aquifer of Israel. Lower concentrations were found in the western section of the aquifer (55–70 pMC) as compared to the eastern section (80–100 pMC). Since no correlation was found between the tritium and radiocarbon values, these variations could not simply be explained by a difference in ages, or by a difference in the degree of old calcite dissolution as similar δ13C values were found throughout the aquifer. The results are best explained when viewing the differences in 14C values within the same coastal aquifer, where the eastern section of the aquifer is a more open system and the western section is a more closed system. In general, the age of the groundwater in the coastal aquifer was found to be less than 50 years old (14C >55 and measurable tritium).
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