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Seasonal oscillations in water exchange between aquifers and the coastal ocean
Michael, H.A.; Mulligan, A.E.; Harvey, C.F. (2005). Seasonal oscillations in water exchange between aquifers and the coastal ocean. Nature (Lond.) 436(7054): 1145-1148
In: Nature: International Weekly Journal of Science. Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 0028-0836, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Michael, H.A.
  • Mulligan, A.E.
  • Harvey, C.F.

    Ground water of both terrestrial and marine origin flows into coastal surface waters as submarine groundwater discharge, and constitutes an important source of nutrients, contaminants and trace elements to the coastal ocean1-5. Large saline discharges have been observed by direct measurements3,6-10 and inferred from geochemical tracers11-13, but sufficient seawater inflow has not been observed to balance this outflow. Geochemical tracers also suggest a time lag between changes in submarine groundwater discharge rates12,14 and the seasonal oscillations of inland recharge that drive groundwater flow towards the coast. Here we use measurements of hydraulic gradients and offshore fluxes taken atWaquoit Bay,Massachusetts, together with a modelling study of a generalized coastal groundwater system to show that a shift in the freshwater-saltwater interface—controlled by seasonal changes in water table elevation—can explain large saline discharges that lag inland recharge cycles. We find that sea water is drawn into aquifers as the freshwater-saltwater interface moves landward duringwinter, and discharges back into coastal waters as the interface moves seaward in summer. Our results demonstrate the connection between the seasonal hydrologic cycle inland and the saline groundwater system in coastal aquifers, and suggest a potentially important seasonality in the chemical loading of coastal waters.

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