Climatic and landscape controls on water transit times and silicate mineral weathering in the critical zone

Xavier Zapata-Rios, Jennifer McIntosh, Laura Rademacher, Peter A. Troch, Paul D. Brooks, Craig Rasmussen, Jon Chorover

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


The critical zone (CZ) can be conceptualized as an open system reactor that is continually transforming energy and water fluxes into an internal structural organization and dissipative products. In this study, we test a controlling factor on water transit times (WTT) and mineral weathering called Effective Energy and Mass Transfer (EEMT). We hypothesize that EEMT, quantified based on local climatic variables, can effectively predict WTT within - and mineral weathering products from - the CZ. This study tests whether EEMT or static landscape characteristics are good predictors of WTT, aqueous phase solutes, and silicate weathering products. Our study site is located around Redondo Peak, a rhyolitic volcanic resurgent dome, in northern New Mexico. At Redondo Peak, springs drain slopes along an energy gradient created by differences in terrain aspect. This investigation uses major solute concentrations, the calculated mineral mass undergoing dissolution, and the age tracer tritium and relates them quantitatively to EEMT and landscape characteristics. We found significant correlations between EEMT, WTT, and mineral weathering products. Significant correlations were observed between dissolved weathering products (Na+ and DIC), 3H concentrations, and maximum EEMT. In contrast, landscape characteristics such as contributing area of spring, slope gradient, elevation, and flow path length were not as effective predictive variables of WTT, solute concentrations, and mineral weathering products. These results highlight the interrelationship between landscape, hydrological, and biogeochemical processes and suggest that basic climatic data embodied in EEMT can be used to scale hydrological and hydrochemical responses in other sites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6036-6051
Number of pages16
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015


  • critical zone
  • effective energy and mass transfer
  • terrain aspect
  • water transit time
  • weathering of silicates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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