Well-defined flow models, which describe the distribution of ages of water from different flow lines contributing to a groundwater sample, are used to calculate the mean age and mixing parameters .H), a rare but naturally occurring hydrogen isotope, arises from cosmic rays interacting with the Earth’s atmospheric gases.However, because of its relatively short half-life (12.3 years), tritium produced in this manner does not accumulate over geological timescales, and its natural abundance is negligible.Tritium is also produced in nuclear reactions, hence there was a large peak in atmospheric tritium concentration in the 1960s and early 1970s is due to nuclear weapons testing.Water in rain, oceans, lakes, streams and glacial ice pick up these tracers through contact with the atmosphere.
These include tritium, CFCs, SF6, silicon-32, carbon-14, and stable isotopes, covering a range of ages from less than six months to tens of thousands of years.
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After oxidation to HTO, it takes part in the natural water cycle.
Before the full potential of natural tritium as a tracer for water movement in natural systems could be explored its distribution was masked by addition of large amounts of so-called ‘bomb tritium’ produced during the surface tests of nuclear weapons.