Articles | Volume 20, issue 1
Research article
 | Highlight paper
19 Jan 2016
Research article | Highlight paper |  | 19 Jan 2016

Aggregation in environmental systems – Part 2: Catchment mean transit times and young water fractions under hydrologic nonstationarity

J. W. Kirchner


Interactive discussion

Status: closed
Status: closed
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
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Peer-review completion

AR: Author's response | RR: Referee report | ED: Editor decision
ED: Reconsider after major revisions (05 Sep 2015) by Thom Bogaard
AR by James Kirchner on behalf of the Authors (26 Oct 2015)  Author's response   Manuscript 
ED: Referee Nomination & Report Request started (27 Oct 2015) by Thom Bogaard
RR by Anonymous Referee #1 (20 Nov 2015)
ED: Publish as is (04 Dec 2015) by Thom Bogaard
AR by James Kirchner on behalf of the Authors (04 Dec 2015)

The requested paper has a corresponding corrigendum published. Please read the corrigendum first before downloading the article.

Short summary
Here I show that seasonal tracer cycles yield strongly biased estimates of mean transit times in nonstationary catchments (and, by implication, in real-world catchments). However, they can be used to reliably estimate the fraction of "young" water in streamflow, meaning water that fell as precipitation less than roughly 2–3 months ago. This young water fraction varies systematically between high and low flows and may help in characterizing controls on stream chemistry.