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  1. Abstract

    Groundwater is one of the largest reservoirs of water on Earth but has relatively small fluxes compared to its volume. This behavior is exaggerated at depths below 500 m, where the majority of groundwater exists and where residence times of millions to even a billion years have been documented. However, the extent of interactions between deep groundwater (>500 m) and the rest of the terrestrial water cycle at a global scale are unclear because of challenges in detecting their contributions to streamflow. Here, we use a chloride mass balance approach to quantify the contribution of deep groundwater to global streamflow. Deep groundwater likely contributes <0.1% to global streamflow and is only weakly and sporadically connected to the rest of the water cycle on geological timescales. Despite this weak connection to streamflow, we found that deep groundwaters are important to the global chloride cycle, providing ~7% of the flux of chloride to the ocean.

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  2. Abstract

    How subsurface microbial life changed at the bottom of the kilometers‐deep (hypo) Critical Zone in response to evolving surface conditions over geologic time is an open question. This study investigates the burial and exhumation, biodegradation, and fluid circulation history of hydrocarbon reservoirs across the Colorado Plateau as a window into the hypo‐Critical Zone. Hydrocarbon reservoirs, in the Paradox and Uinta basins, were deeply buried starting ca. 100 to 60 Ma, reaching temperatures >80–140°C, likely sterilizing microbial communities present since the deposition of sediments. High salinities associated with evaporites may have further limited microbial activity. Upward migration of hydrocarbons from shale source rocks into shallower reservoirs during maximum burial set the stage for microbial re‐introduction by creating organic‐rich “hot spots.” Denudation related to the incision of the Colorado River over the past few million years brought reservoirs closer to the surface under cooler temperatures, enhanced deep meteoric water circulation and flushing of saline fluids, and likely re‐inoculated more permeable sediments up to several km depth. Modern‐ to paleo‐hydrocarbon reservoirs show molecular and isotopic evidence of anaerobic oxidation of hydrocarbons coupled to bacterial sulfate reduction in areas with relatively high SO4‐fluxes. Anaerobic oil biodegradation rates are high enough to explain the removal of at least some portion of postulated “supergiant oil fields” across the Colorado Plateau by microbial activity over the past several million years. Results from this study help constrain the lower limits of the hypo‐Critical Zone and how it evolved over geologic time, in response to changing geologic, hydrologic, and biologic forcings.

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  3. Abstract

    Extensive regions of yellow and white (“bleached”) sandstones within the terrestrial Jurassic red bed deposits of the Colorado Plateau reflect widespread interaction with subsurface reduced fluids which resulted in the dissolution of iron‐oxide grain coatings. Reduced fluids such as hydrocarbons, CO2, and organic acids have been proposed as bleaching agents. In this study, we characterize an altered section of the Slick Rock member of the Jurassic Entrada Sandstone that exposes bleached sandstone with bitumen‐saturated pore spaces. We observe differences in texture, porosity, mineralogy, and geochemistry between red, pink, yellow, and gray facies. In the bleached yellow facies we observe quartz overgrowths, partially dissolved K‐feldspar, calcite cement, fine‐grained illite, TiO2‐minerals, and pyrite concretions. Clay mineral content is highest at the margins of the bleached section. Fe2O3concentrations are reduced up to 3× from the red to gray facies but enriched up to 50× in iron‐oxide concretions. Metals such as Zn, Pb, and rare‐earth elements are significantly enriched in the concretions. Supported by a batch geochemical model, we conclude the interaction of red sandstones with reduced hydrocarbon‐bearing fluids caused iron‐oxide and K‐feldspar dissolution, and precipitation of quartz, calcite, clay, and pyrite. Localized redistribution of iron into concretions can account for most of the iron removed during bleaching. Pyrite and carbonate stable isotopic data suggest the hydrocarbons were sourced from the Pennsylvanian Paradox Formation. Bitumen in pore spaces and pyrite precipitation formed a reductant trap required to produce Cu, U, and V enrichment in all altered facies by younger, oxidized saline brines.

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  4. The Paradox Basin in the Colorado Plateau (USA) has some of the most iconic records of paleofluid flow, including sandstone bleaching and ore mineralization, and hydrocarbon, CO2, and He reservoirs, yet the sources of fluids responsible for these extensive fluid-rock reactions are highly debated. This study, for the first time, characterizes fluids within the basin to constrain the sources and emergent behavior of paleofluid flow resulting in the iconic rock records. Major ion and isotopic (δ18Owater; δDwater; δ18OSO4; δ34SSO4; δ34SH2S; 87Sr/86Sr) signatures of formation waters were used to evaluate the distribution and sources of fluids and water-rock interactions by comparison with the rock record. There are two sources of salinity in basinal fluids: (1) diagenetically altered highly evaporated paleo-seawater-derived brines associated with the Pennsylvanian Paradox Formation evaporites; and (2) dissolution of evaporites by topographically driven meteoric circulation. Fresh to brackish groundwater in the shallow Cretaceous Burro Canyon Formation contains low Cu and high SO4 concentrations and shows oxidation of sulfides by meteoric water, while U concentrations are higher than within other formation waters. Deeper brines in the Pennsylvanian Honaker Trail Formation were derived from evaporated paleo-seawater mixed with meteoric water that oxidized sulfides and dissolved gypsum and have high 87Sr/86Sr indicating interaction with radiogenic siliciclastic minerals. Upward migration of reduced (hydrocarbon- and H2S-bearing) saline fluids from the Pennsylvanian Paradox Formation along faults likely bleached sandstones in shallower sediments and provided a reduced trap for later Cu and U deposition. The distribution of existing fluids in the Paradox Basin provides important constraints to understand the rock record over geological time. 
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