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ARS Home » Plains Area » Lubbock, Texas » Cropping Systems Research Laboratory » Wind Erosion and Water Conservation Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #246310

Title: Anthropogenic radioisotopes to estimate rates of soil redistribution by wind

item Van Pelt, Robert - Scott
item KETTERER, MICHAEL - Northern Arizona University
item Zobeck, Teddy
item Ritchie, Jerry

Submitted to: ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/1/2009
Publication Date: 11/5/2009
Citation: Van Pelt, R.S., Ketterer, M., Zobeck, T.M., Ritchie, J.C. 2009. Anthropogenic radioisotopes to estimate rates of soil redistribution by wind[abstract]. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science Society of America. November 1-5, 2009. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Abstract No. 2009.55438.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Erosion of soil by wind and water is a degrading process that affects millions of hectares worldwide. Atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons and the resulting fallout of anthropogenic radioisotopes, particularly Cesium 137, has made possible the estimation of mean soil redistribution rates. The peak fallout levels occurred in the early 1960s. Cesium 137 has a relatively short half-life of 30.2 years, limiting its use for future studies. Radioisotopes of Plutonium were also created during the period of atmospheric testing and were deposited onto the earth’s surface at 1/25th the rate of Cesium 137. The half-lives of Plutonium 239 and Plutonium 240 are 24,100 years and 6,500 years, respectively, making them ideal tracers for future erosion estimates. We sampled a system of locations with documented wind erosion and deposition histories by depth and analyzed the samples for Cesium 137 and for Plutonium 239+240. Models developed for Cesium 137 predicted redistribution rates very well when a particle size correction factor of 1.18 was used for eroding surfaces. Plutonium 239+240 activities and distribution patterns correlated very well with those of Cesium 137, strongly indicating the usefulness of these radioisotopes for future studies of soil redistribution in semi-arid environments.