The ballade of noble gases, Arsenic, seismicity and trees…
Prof. Dr. Rolf Kipfer
INF 229, SR 108/110

Atmospheric noble gases enter aquatic systems by gas / water partitioning. Therefore, aquatic noble gas concentrations in waters reflect the physical conditions prevailing during gas exchange. Consequently, applications of dissolved atmospheric noble gases are constrained to the analysis of gas partitioning processes between phases, but also allow the reconstruction of past environmental / climate conditions [1]. These concepts in concert with the mechanistic understanding of the gas / water partitioning in porous media allow e.g. to reconstruct ground water recharge in Northern America in response to the last glaciation [2, 3]. Most recently novel experimental methods enable to analyse the noble gas concentrations in minute amounts of water (< 1 mg, 4) and to determine (noble) gas concentrations in various terrestrial fluids online under field conditions [5, 6]. These methods allow to retrieve past environmental information from noble gases in fluid inclusions in speleothems [7] and yield information on the fluid transport around Black Smokers and ocean sediments [8, 9], on submarine ground water discharge [10] and on the possible effect of CH4 formation on the mobilization on As in ground waters [11].

The presentation aims to summarize and to comment our recent developments on the application of atmospheric noble gases to study aquatic environments, trees [12] and the possible relation between fluid dynamics and seismic activity [13].

[1] Seltzer A. M. et al. (2021) Nature, 593, 228-232, [2] Klump S. et al. (2008) Geology, 36, 395-396, [3] Grundl T. et al. (2013) Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 369-370, 78-85, [4] Vogel N. et al. (2013) Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst., 14, 2432-2444, [5] Mächler L. et al. (2012) Environ. Sci. Technol., 46, 8288-8296, [6] Brennwald M. S. et al. (2016) Environ. Sci. Technol., 50, 13455-13463, [7] Ghadiri E. et al. (2018) Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 495, 192-201, [8] S Berndt C. et al. (2016) Geology, 44, 767-770, [9] Horstmann E. et al. (2021) Marine Geology, 434, 106419, [10] Engelhardt  E. et al. (2022) Goldschmidt conference, abstract # 9793, [11] Lightfoot, A. et al. (2022) Water Research, 214, 118199, [12] Marion C. et al. (2022) Goldschmidt conference abstract # 9606, [13] Giroud S. et al. (2022) Goldschmidt conference abstract # 8935.


Dr Rolf Kipfer is a research scientist the Department of Water Resources and Drinking Water of the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (EAWAG) where he leads the Environmental Isotopes research group. He is Professor at the Institute for Biogeochemistry and Pollution Dynamics of the Department of Environmental System Science (D-USYS) at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ). He holds a PhD in Natural Science of ETHZ where he lectures on aquatic physics, tracer hydrology and noble gas isotope geochemistry.