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Evaluating anthropogenic and environmental tritium effects using precipitation and Hokkaido snowpack at selected coastal locations in Asia

Gusyev, M.A., Morgenstern, U., Nishihara, T., Hayashi, T., Akata, N., Ichiyanagi, K., Sugimoto, A., Hasegawa, A., Stewart, M.K.
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.659 pp. 1307-1321
altitude, atmospheric precipitation, hydrology, latitude, mountains, snowpack, spring, stable isotopes, time series analysis, tritium, winter, Japan
Tritium dating requires a good understanding of the tritium and water inputs into hydrologic systems, including their main trends due to latitudinal, seasonal and altitudinal effects. Although tritium reached ambient levels at the end of the 20th century, tritium released from nuclear facilities and bomb tests since then has the potential to confound use of tritium for age dating. We therefore collected precipitation and snowpack samples for tritium analysis to confirm that tritium levels in Japanese precipitation had not exceeded ambient levels following the North Korean nuclear tests in January 6th 2016 and September 3rd 2017. As the result, the highest tritium concentration was 5.52(±0.27)TU at samples collected from January 8 to 11th at one Honshu and four Hokkaido locations and samples collected at six Honshu locations had 8.01(±1.5)TU from September 6 to 19th 2017. Confirming ambient tritium concentrations after both events we investigated the latitude tritium effect at selected coastal stations in Asia, indicating a break of latitude trend around Tokyo area, and established the latitude scaling factors to the north and south of the Tokyo area data. The seasonal trend was investigated during the winter–spring 2016 in precipitation samples confirming the higher spring tritium compared with winter continental tritium values. The altitude effect on tritium and stable (18O and 2H) isotopes was observed in Hokkaido snowpack, which had tritium concentrations ranging between 4.08 and 5.93 TU during March–April, and demonstrated two trends for western and central Hokkaido mountain ranges. Using established latitude and altitude scaling factors with the long-term continuous time-series of monthly Tokyo area tritium we estimated the annual weighted tritium at 110 meteorological stations in Japan with monthly precipitation demonstrating the applicability of this approach for future tritium-tracer studies across Asia.