Articles | Volume 20, issue 1
Research article
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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


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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.