To be better understand the hydrological and thermal behavior of karst systems in South China, seasonal variations in flow, hydrochemistry and stable isotope ratios of five karst springs were used to delineate flow paths and recharge processes, and to interpret their thermal response. Isotopic data suggest that mean recharge elevations are 200–820 m above spring outlets. Springs that originate from high elevations have lower NO3 − concentrations than those originating from lower areas that have more agricultural activity. Measured Sr2+ concentrations reflect the strontium contents of the host carbonate aquifer and help delineate the spring catchment’s saturated zone. Seasonal variations of NO3 − and Sr2+ concentrations are inversely correlated, because the former correlates with event water and the latter with baseflow. The mean annual water temperatures of springs were only slightly lower than the local mean annual surface temperature at the outlet elevations. These mean spring temperatures suggest a vertical gradient of ~6 °C/vertical km, which resembles the adiabatic lapse rate of the Earth’s stable atmosphere. Seasonal temperature variations in the springs are in phase with surface air temperatures, except for Heilongquan (HLQ) spring. Event-scale variations of thermal response are dramatically controlled by the circulation depth of karst systems, which determines the effectiveness of heat exchange. HLQ spring undergoes the deepest circulation depth of 820 m, and its thermal responses are determined by the thermally effective regulation processes at higher elevations and the mixing processes associated with thermally ineffective responses at lower elevations.
Hydrogeology Journal – Springer Journals
Published: Sep 12, 2017
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