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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 20, issue 1
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 20, 299-328, 2016
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-20-299-2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 20, 299-328, 2016
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-20-299-2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 19 Jan 2016

Research article | 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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Benettin, P., van der Velde, Y., van der Zee, S., Rinaldo, A., and Botter, G.: Chloride circulation in a lowland catchment and the formulation of transport by travel time distributions, Water Resour. Res., 49, 4619–4632, https://doi.org/10.1002/wrcr.20309, 2013.
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Bethke, C. M., and Johnson, T. M.: Groundwater age and groundwater age dating, Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci., 36, 121–152, https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.earth.36.031207.124210, 2008.
Beven, K.: On subsurface stormflow: predictions with simple kinematic theory for saturated and unsaturated flows, Water Resour. Res., 18, 1627–1633, 1982.
Beven, K.: A manifesto for the equifinality thesis, J. Hydrol., 320, 18–36, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2005.07.007, 2006.
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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.
Here I show that seasonal tracer cycles yield strongly biased estimates of mean transit times in...
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