Hydrology and Land Surface Studies
Falling through the cracks: The role of fractures in Earth-atmosphere gas exchange
Article first published online: 16 JAN 2009
Copyright 2009 by the American Geophysical Union.
Geophysical Research Letters
Volume 36, Issue 2, January 2009
How to Cite
2009), Falling through the cracks: The role of fractures in Earth-atmosphere gas exchange, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L02401, doi:10.1029/2008GL036096., , , and (
- Issue published online: 16 JAN 2009
- Article first published online: 16 JAN 2009
- Manuscript Accepted: 5 DEC 2008
- Manuscript Revised: 24 NOV 2008
- Manuscript Received: 23 SEP 2008
- gas transport
 If we are to understand global warming, and in particular global water-cycling, then it is vital to explore the links between atmospheric conditions, earth processes and major global cycles. One arena that has been heretofore ignored is the effect on global dynamics of earth fractures that are open to the atmosphere. Historically, these fractures have been studied merely as participants in aquifer recharge or aquifer contamination during periods of infiltration. In general, they are considered inactive when there is no precipitation. This paper puts forward in-situ continuous field measurements demonstrating that during no-flow periods, fractures breathe via convection on a daily basis, enhancing atmospheric exchange by several orders of magnitude compared to the non-fractured crust. We quantify the timing, persistence and characteristics of this mechanism. The convective exchange mechanism is pervasive, occurring daily with peak flux exchange at night and in winter, the reverse of most other surface processes.