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Wyoming-Montana Water Science Center

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Historic mining activity in the Barker Mining District


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Historically, scientists have assumed that a properly collected water sample will provide an accurate assessment of constituent concentrations in a water body on a given day assuming constant hydrologic conditions.  However, an increasing body of evidence indicates that the concentration of many potentially toxic trace elements (such as arsenic, cadmium, copper, manganese, zinc) in streams can vary over a large range (up to 500 percent) during a 24-hour period irrespective of changes in streamflow.  These diel concentration cycles have been shown to be robust and reproducible, having been documented in many streams separated by large distances, in different geologic environments, and over a large range of metal concentrations.

graph diel metal

Graph of diurnal variation of metals in Prickly Pear Creek and High Ore Creek, Montana

This research project is supported by the U.S. Geological Survey Toxic Substances Hydrology Program as part of this program's investigations of Watershed Contamination from Hard-Rock Mining.


Recent conferences on diel biogeochemical processes:

Effects of Diel Cycling on Stream Conditions
Technical Session at the National Monitoring Conference, Portland OR (April 30-May 4, 2012)
Oral Presentations

Fascinating Biogeochemistry: How Diel Cycling Complicates Surface-Water Monitoring
Short Course at the National Monitoring Conference, Portland OR (April 30-May 4, 2012)
Oral Presentation

Diurnal Biogeochemical Processes in Rivers, Lakes, and Shallow Groundwater
Technical Session at Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, Portland OR (October 18-21, 2009)
Oral Presentations  Poster Presentations

Diurnal (Diel) Cycling of Chemical Constituents in Surface Water and Related Media—Scientific and Regulatory Considerations
Workshop sponsored by the USGS and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Trenton, NJ (December 12, 2008)
Oral Presentations

USGS Home Water Climate Change Core Science Ecosystems Energy and Minerals Env. Health Hazards

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