Articles | Volume 7, issue 11
06 Jun 2007
06 Jun 2007

Predicting terrestrial 222Rn flux using gamma dose rate as a proxy

T. Szegvary, M. C. Leuenberger, and F. Conen

Abstract. 222Rn is commonly used as a natural tracer for validating climate models. To improve such models a better source term for 222Rn than currently used is necessary. The aim of this work is to establish a method for mapping this source term by using a commonly measured proxy, the gamma dose rate (GDR). Automatic monitoring of GDR has been networked in 25 European countries by the Institute for Environment and Sustainability at the Joint Research Centre (JRC IES) in Ispra, Italy, using a common data format. We carried out simultaneous measurements of 222Rn flux and GDR at 63 locations in Switzerland, Germany, Finland and Hungary in order to cover a wide range of GDR. Spatial variations in GDR resulted from different radionuclide concentrations in soil forming minerals. A relatively stable fraction (20%) of the total terrestrial GDR originates from the 238U decay series, of which 222Rn is a member. Accordingly, spatial variation in terrestrial GDR was found to describe almost 60% of the spatial variation in 222Rn flux. Furthermore, temporal variation in GDR and 222Rn was found to be correlated. Increasing soil moisture reduces gas diffusivity and the rate of 222Rn flux but it also decreases GDR through increased shielding of photons. Prediction of 222Rn flux through GDR for individual measurement points is imprecise but un-biased. Verification of larger scale prediction showed that estimates of mean 222Rn fluxes were not significantly different from the measured mean values.

Final-revised paper