Evaporative cooling of speleothem drip water

M. O. Cuthbert*, G. C. Rau, M. S. Andersen, H. Roshan, H. Rutlidge, C. E. Marjo, M. Markowska, C. N. Jex, P. W. Graham, G. Mariethoz, R. I. Acworth, A. Baker

*Corresponding author for this work

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21 Citations (Scopus)
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This study describes the first use of concurrent high-precision temperature and drip rate monitoring to explore what controls the temperature of speleothem forming drip water. Two contrasting sites, one with fast transient and one with slow constant dripping, in a temperate semi-arid location (Wellington, NSW, Australia), exhibit drip water temperatures which deviate significantly from the cave air temperature. We confirm the hypothesis that evaporative cooling is the dominant, but so far unattributed, control causing significant disequilibrium between drip water and host rock/air temperatures. The amount of cooling is dependent on the drip rate, relative humidity and ventilation. Our results have implications for the interpretation of temperature-sensitive, speleothem climate proxies such as Î́ 18 O, cave microecology and the use of heat as a tracer in karst. Understanding the processes controlling the temperature of speleothem-forming cave drip waters is vital for assessing the reliability of such deposits as archives of climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5162
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jun 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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