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Volume 9, issue 3 | Copyright
Earth Syst. Dynam., 9, 1141-1153, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/esd-9-1141-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 27 Sep 2018

Research article | 27 Sep 2018

Pipes to Earth's subsurface: the role of atmospheric conditions in controlling air transport through boreholes and shafts

Elad Levintal1, Nadav G. Lensky2, Amit Mushkin3, and Noam Weisbrod1 Elad Levintal et al.
  • 1Environmental Hydrology and Microbiology, the Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research, The Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Midreshet Ben-Gurion 8499000, Israel
  • 2Geological Survey of Israel, Jerusalem 9550161, Israel
  • 3Department of Earth & Space Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98105, USA

Abstract. Understanding air exchange dynamics between underground cavities (e.g., caves, mines, boreholes, etc.) and the atmosphere is significant for the exploration of gas transport across the Earth–atmosphere interface. Here, we investigated the role of atmospheric conditions in controlling air transport inside boreholes using in situ field measurements. Three geometries were explored: (1) a narrow and deep shaft (0.1m wide and 27m deep), ending in a large underground cavity; (2) the same shaft after the pipe was lowered and separated from the cavity; and (3) a deep large-diameter borehole (59m deep and 3.4m wide). Absolute humidity was found to be a reliable proxy for distinguishing between atmospheric and cavity air masses (mainly during the winter and spring seasons) and thus to explore air transport through the three geometries. Airflow directions in the first two narrow-diameter geometries were found to be driven by changes in barometric pressure, whereas airflow in the large-diameter geometry was correlated primarily with the diurnal cycles of ambient atmospheric temperature. CO2 concentrations of  ∼ 2000ppm were found in all three geometries, indicating that airflow from the Earth's subsurface into the atmosphere may also be significant in the investigation of greenhouse gas emissions.

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