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  1. In weathered bedrock aquifers, groundwater is stored in pores and fractures that open as rocks are exhumed and minerals interact with meteoric fluids. Little is known about this storage because geochemical and geophysical observations are limited to pits, boreholes, or outcrops or to inferences based on indirect measurements between these sites. We trained a rock physics model to borehole observations in a well-constrained ridge and valley landscape and then interpreted spatial variations in seismic refraction velocities. We discovered that P-wave velocities track where a porosity-generating reaction initiates in shale in three boreholes across the landscape. Specifically, velocities of 2.7 ± 0.2 km/s correspond with growth of porosity from dissolution of chlorite, the most reactive of the abundant minerals in the shale. In addition, sonic velocities are consistent with the presence of gas bubbles beneath the water table under valley and ridge. We attribute this gas largely to CO2produced by 1) microbial respiration in soils as meteoric waters recharge into the subsurface and 2) the coupled carbonate dissolution and pyrite oxidation at depth in the rock. Bubbles may nucleate below the water table because waters depressurize as they flow from ridge to valley and because pores have dilated as the deep rock has been exhumed by erosion. Many of these observations are likely to also describe the weathering and flow path patterns in other headwater landscapes. Such combined geophysical and geochemical observations will help constrain models predicting flow, storage, and reaction of groundwater in bedrock systems.

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  2. null (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT The direct carbonate procedure for accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon (AMS 14 C) dating of submilligram samples of biogenic carbonate without graphitization is becoming widely used in a variety of studies. We compare the results of 153 paired direct carbonate and standard graphite 14 C determinations on single specimens of an assortment of biogenic carbonates. A reduced major axis regression shows a strong relationship between direct carbonate and graphite percent Modern Carbon (pMC) values (m = 0.996; 95% CI [0.991–1.001]). An analysis of differences and a 95% confidence interval on pMC values reveals that there is no significant difference between direct carbonate and graphite pMC values for 76% of analyzed specimens, although variation in direct carbonate pMC is underestimated. The difference between the two methods is typically within 2 pMC, with 61% of direct carbonate pMC measurements being higher than their paired graphite counterpart. Of the 36 specimens that did yield significant differences, all but three missed the 95% significance threshold by 1.2 pMC or less. These results show that direct carbonate 14 C dating of biogenic carbonates is a cost-effective and efficient complement to standard graphite 14 C dating. 
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  3. Extensive development of shale gas has generated some concerns about environmental impacts such as the migration of natural gas into water resources. We studied high gas concentrations in waters at a site near Marcellus Shale gas wells to determine the geological explanations and geochemical implications. The local geology may explain why methane has discharged for 7 years into groundwater, a stream, and the atmosphere. Gas may migrate easily near the gas wells in this location where the Marcellus Shale dips significantly, is shallow (∼1 km), and is more fractured. Methane and ethane concentrations in local water wells increased after gas development compared with predrilling concentrations reported in the region. Noble gas and isotopic evidence are consistent with the upward migration of gas from the Marcellus Formation in a free-gas phase. This upflow results in microbially mediated oxidation near the surface. Iron concentrations also increased following the increase of natural gas concentrations in domestic water wells. After several months, both iron and SO42−concentrations dropped. These observations are attributed to iron and SO42−reduction associated with newly elevated concentrations of methane. These temporal trends, as well as data from other areas with reported leaks, document a way to distinguish newly migrated methane from preexisting sources of gas. This study thus documents both geologically risky areas and geochemical signatures of iron and SO42−that could distinguish newly leaked methane from older methane sources in aquifers.

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  4. Abstract

    The critical zone sustains terrestrial life, but we have few tools to explore it efficiently beyond the first few meters of the subsurface. Using analyses of high‐frequency ambient seismic noise from densely spaced seismometers deployed in the forested Shale Hills subcatchment of the Susquehanna Shale Hills Critical Zone Observatory (SSHCZO), we show that temporal changes in seismic velocities at depths from ∼1 m to tens of m can be detected. These changes are driven by variations at the land surface. The Moving‐Window Cross‐Spectral (MWCS) method was employed to measure seismic‐velocity changes in coda waves at hourly resolution in 10 different frequency bands. We observed a diurnal signal, a seasonal signal, and a meteorological‐event‐based signal. These signals were compared to time‐series measurements of precipitation, well water levels, soil moisture, soil temperature, air temperature, latent heat flux, and air pressure in the heavily instrumented catchment. Most of the velocity changes can be explained by variations in temperature that result in thermoelastic strains that propagate to depth. But some double minima in seismic velocity time‐series observed after large rain events were attributed in part to the effects of water infiltration. These results show that high‐frequency ambient noise data may in some locations be used to detect changes in the critical zone from ∼1 to ∼100 m or greater depth with hourly resolution. But interpretation of such data requires multiple environmental data sets to deconvolve the complex interrelationships among thermoelastic and hydrological effects in the subsurface critical zone.

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  5. Abstract

    K‐Ar ages of clay‐sized mineral grains are used to determine the timing of activity on fossil seismogenic faults within the Cretaceous‐Paleogene Shimanto accretionary complex, southwest Japan. Samples were collected from three regional faults that separate hanging wall coherent rocks from footwall subduction mélange: the Goshikinohama Fault that caps the Yokonami mélange, the roof thrust of the Okitsu mélange, and the Nobeoka Thrust that caps the Hyuga mélange. The K‐Ar ages of fault rocks decrease with decreasing 2M1illite polytype component, indicating a mixture of 1Mdand 2M1illite polytypes. Based on illite dating analysis, the extrapolated ages of the pure 2M1illite polytype from the Goshikinohama Fault, the roof thrust of the Okitsu mélange, and the Nobeoka Thrust are 79.3 ± 5.0, 66.1 ± 8.1, and 46.7 ± 8.2 Ma, respectively, similar to the depositional age of each host rock. Lower intercepts of regression lines, which correspond to samples containing 100% authigenic illite, are calculated as 50.7 ± 1.4, 18.4 ± 1.2, and 24.4 ± 1.4 Ma, respectively. These ages are significantly younger than both the depositional ages and the timing of accretion. These results indicate that authigenic illite associated with fault slip is not related to underthrusting along the subduction interface but rather formed during out‐of‐sequence thrusting in the upper plate. Early Miocene slip along faults of the northern Shimanto belt is coincident with major tectonic events along the convergent margin, including collision with elements of the Izu‐Bonin volcanic arc‐backarc system, and opening of the Japan Sea.

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  6. Abstract

    We used seismic refraction to image the P‐wave velocity structure of a shale watershed experiencing regional compression in the Valley and Ridge Province (USA). From estimates showing strong compressional stress, we expected the depth to unweathered bedrock to mirror the hill‐valley‐hill topography (“bowtie pattern”) by analogy to seismic velocity patterns in crystalline bedrock in the North American Piedmont that also experience compression. Previous researchers used failure potentials calculated for strong compression in the Piedmont to suggest fractures are open deeper under hills than valleys to explain the “bowtie” pattern. Seismic images of the shale watershed, however, show little evidence of such a “bowtie.” Instead, they are consistent with weak (not strong) compression. This contradiction could be explained by the greater importance of infiltration‐driven weathering than fracturing in determining seismic velocities in shale compared to crystalline bedrock, or to local perturbations of the regional stress field due to lithology or structures.

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