Air, ground, and groundwater recharge temperatures in an alpine setting, Brighton Basin, Utah


Corresponding author: M. D. Masbruch, Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Utah, 115 S. 1460 E., FASB, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA. (


[1] Noble gases are useful tracers for constraining groundwater recharge temperature and elevation, critical in determining source areas of groundwater recharge in mountainous terrain. A monitoring network in the alpine Brighton Basin in the Wasatch Mountains of northern Utah, USA, was established to examine the relationship between air temperatures, ground temperatures, and noble gas groundwater recharge temperatures. Maximum noble gas groundwater recharge temperatures computed using the closed-system equilibration model from 25 samples collected over the 2 year period 2007 to 2009 averaged 2.9 ± 1.2°C, within the experimental error of the mean ground temperature of 2.3°C measured within the probable recharge area. Maximum noble gas recharge temperatures vary from 0 to 7°C, also comparable to ground temperature variations in the region. Groundwater ages in the collected samples vary from 0 to 7 years indicating changing flow paths to the collection site during the experiment. Mean ground temperatures in the upper 1 m of soil over the 2 year time period is 2.3°C, which is 1°C cooler than the mean surface air temperature extrapolated from a nearby meteorological station. This comparison contradicts an earlier observation that mean annual ground temperatures in central Utah are generally warmer than air temperatures. The offset in the Brighton Basin is explained by modeling a snow effect on ground temperature. This detailed study suggests that interpretation of groundwater recharge temperatures derived from noble gases should be attentive to the complex local ground temperature effects in the recharge areas.