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Concentrations Of Nitrous Oxide In The Central High Plains Aquifer Are Increasing

Date:
January 3, 2001
Source:
United States Geological Survey
Summary:
Nitrous oxide is an important atmospheric trace gas that contributes to the greenhouse effect and the destruction of ozone. Researchers hypothesize that one important source of atmospheric nitrous oxide is ground water, yet few studies have tested this hypothesis. Concentrations of nitrous oxide in ground water from the central High Plains aquifer, in parts of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas, are increasing, according to a recently released report.

Nitrous oxide is an important atmospheric trace gas that contributes to the greenhouse effect and the destruction of ozone. Researchers hypothesize that one important source of atmospheric nitrous oxide is ground water, yet few studies have tested this hypothesis. Concentrations of nitrous oxide in ground water from the central High Plains aquifer, in parts of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas, are increasing, according to a recently released report, "Occurrence of Nitrous Oxide in the Central High Plains Aquifer, 1999." Well pumping for irrigation, public supply, and domestic uses is the primary mechanism for ground-water discharge from the aquifer, and pumping is one mechanism for transferring nitrous oxide from the aquifer to the atmosphere.

"The average concentration of nitrous oxide in water that recharged the aquifer since the 1950's is about twice as large as the average nitrous oxide concentration in water that recharged the aquifer prior to the 1950's," said Peter McMahon, U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist and lead author of the report. Eighty percent of the water samples collected for the study contained nitrous oxide above background concentrations. The ground water most enriched in nitrous oxide occurs near the water table, whereas deep water from the aquifer is relatively old and contains less nitrous oxide. Despite the increase in nitrous oxide concentrations in the central High Plains aquifer, the aquifer is not thought to be a significant source of atmospheric nitrous oxide at this time because most pumping wells in the study area remove the deeper water that is not enriched in nitrous oxide.

The report, "Occurrence of Nitrous Oxide in the Central High Plains Aquifer, 1999," by P.B. McMahon, B.W. Bruce, M.F. Becker, L.M. Pope, and K.F. Dennehy was published in the December, 2000 issue (volume 34) of the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

As the nation's largest water, earth and biological sciences, and civilian mapping agency, the USGS works in cooperation with more than 2,000 organizations across the country to provide reliable, impartial, scientific information to resource managers, planners, and other customers. This information is gathered in every state by USGS scientists to minimize the loss of life and property from natural disasters; contribute to the sound conservation, economic and physical development of the nation's natural resources; and to enhance the quality of life by monitoring water, biological, energy, and mineral resources.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by United States Geological Survey. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

United States Geological Survey. "Concentrations Of Nitrous Oxide In The Central High Plains Aquifer Are Increasing." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 January 2001. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/01/010102063006.htm>.
United States Geological Survey. (2001, January 3). Concentrations Of Nitrous Oxide In The Central High Plains Aquifer Are Increasing. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/01/010102063006.htm
United States Geological Survey. "Concentrations Of Nitrous Oxide In The Central High Plains Aquifer Are Increasing." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/01/010102063006.htm (accessed July 26, 2014).

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