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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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  15 Jun 2020

15 Jun 2020

Review status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Triple oxygen isotope systematics of evaporation and mixing processes in a dynamic desert lake system

Claudia Voigt1, Daniel Herwartz1, Cristina Dorador2, and Michael Staubwasser1 Claudia Voigt et al.
  • 1Institute of Geology and Mineralogy, University of Cologne, Zülpicher Str. 49b, 50674 Cologne, Germany
  • 2Centro de Biotecnología, Universidad de Antofagasta, Angamos 601, 1270300 Antofagasta, Chile

Abstract. Triple oxygen isotope measurements are a novel and promising tool in geochemical and hydrological research. This study investigates the combined hydrogen-deuterium and triple oxygen isotope hydrology at the Salar del Huasco, a highly dynamic salt lake system located on the Altiplano Plateau, N-Chile. The region has a semiarid climate that shows strong seasonal and diurnal variability in relative humidity, temperature, and wind conditions. The Salar del Huasco receives inflow from multiple surface sources and groundwater. Episodic flooding after rare rainfall events imposes seasonal fluctuations of the groundwater table and, thus, the lake level. Applying the Craig and Gordon (C-G) evaporation model for triple oxygen isotope data measured along series of increasingly evaporated lakes and ponds within the salar demonstrates the capability to resolve the individual fundamental hydrologic processes of recharge evaporation, simple (pan) evaporation, and transient mixing with surface and subsurface floodwater. Regarding the stream and spring sources, mixing of different generations of recharge is clearly distinguishable from pre-evaporation of a single recharge event. These processes are not resolvable by δ2H and δ18O measurements alone. We also show that accurate monitoring of the isotopic composition of ambient water vapour and an estimate of the wind turbulence coefficient in the C-G model are critical aspects required to quantify the hydrologic balance. The wind turbulence coefficient, here 0.54, may be determined accurately from on-site evaporation experiments by fitting evaporation trajectories to the d-excess, δ18O and residual fraction data.

Claudia Voigt et al.

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Claudia Voigt et al.

Claudia Voigt et al.


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