Project 618 - Palaeoclimate information obtained from past-recharged groundwater

Human civilizations have for millennia depended on the stability of groundwater resources to survive dry or unreliable climates. While groundwater supplies are buffered against short-term effects of climate variability, they can be impacted over longer time frames through changes in rainfall, temperature, snowfall, melting of glaciers/permafrost, vegetation and land-use changes. Groundwater provides a low-resolution archive of past climate variation by recording changes in recharge amount or the chemical and isotopic evolutionary history of a groundwater system. The recharge history of a given groundwater resource is then vital to forecast its vulnerability under future and potentially adverse climatic changes.

This global project based on existing information and fostering new investigations aims to:

A) Compare and potentially correlate major climatic events derived from groundwater with those obtained from higher resolution continental proxy records. This will be done at a continental scale (individual basins) and global scale (between different basins).

B) Apply this approach to large aquifers or regions where pre-existing research can be accessed and/or small number of additional analysis could add substantial value. The project will initially target emblematic aquifers “flag basins” in most continents but expects to increase the number of basins targeted as new collaborations and research projects are developed.

  • Africa: North West Sahara Aquifer System (NWSAS).
  • America: (North America) we will target the High Plains Aquifer (HPA). (South America) we will target the Guaraní Aquifer System (GAS)
  • Asia: The North China Plains Aquifer (NCPA)
  • Europe: The Baltic Artesian Basin (BAB)
  • Oceania: Great Artesian Basin (GAB) and the coastal Sydney Basin aquifers (SBa)

These basins contain vast groundwater resources and it is estimated that tens (if not 100s) of millions of people rely on them either directly or indirectly. Uncontrolled groundwater extraction in some of those aquifers has caused irreversible depletion. Understanding the recharge history of these aquifers will provide solid scientific data that are essential for modelers to predict future impacts, and hence for water managers who rely on such predictions.

C) To assess potential future climatic effects in the studied basins based on the understanding of their recharge history. Several conceptualizations of basin response from the palaeo groundwater record will be modeled and compared. Provided data, the model's response will be calibrated against data. Calculated response of modeled basins will also be used to identify data needs.

D) To improve groundwater chronological frameworks past the 14C dating range (>30 ka in groundwater) and contribute to the use of novel “age or palaeo climatic tracers” (i.e. 81Kr, noble gasses, 35S etc.).

E) To establish a network of palaeo groundwater scientist that accelerates the transferring of knowledge to developing countries and junior scientists, development of research directions and systematic comparison of palaeo groundwater systems. For this purpose a seminar/workshop is to be held annually.

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