Floodplain sedimentation rates in an alpine watershed determined by radionuclide techniques

Frederick M. Soster, Gerald Matisoff, Peter J. Whiting, William Fornes, Michael Ketterer, Scott Szechenyi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Vertical profiles of the activities of 137Cs and 210Pb were measured on floodplain sediment cores and upland soil cores along the Soda Butte Creek and the Yellowstone River to determine floodplain sedimentation rates. The position of mine tailings from a 1950 impoundment failure was used as a stratigraphic marker to estimate the sedimentation rates and to make comparisons with rates provided by radionuclide-based methods. Mass accumulation (sedimentation) rates calculated from the position of the mine tailings ranged from 0-00 to 0.17 g cm-2 yr-1 and were in good agreement with sedimentation rates calculated from the inventories of 137Cs and 210Pb. Sedimentation rates calculated from the position of the 137Cs peak generally overestimated the sedimentation rates, probably because of increased downward migration of 137Cs caused by the low pH of water moving through the mine tailings or the high permeability of floodplain sediments relative to upland reference soils. This study demonstrates that the 137Cs and 210Pb inventory methods for determining sedimentation rates can be applied to an alpine floodplain where sedimentation events are episodic and where orographic effects on precipitation generate strong downstream gradients in the delivery of atmospheric radionuclides.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2038-2051
Number of pages14
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number13
StatePublished - Nov 2007


  • Cs
  • Mine tailings
  • Pb
  • Soda Butte Creek
  • Yellowstone River

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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