Oasis near Death Valley fed by ancient aquifer under Nevada Test Site

Jun 03, 2010

Every minute, 10,000 gallons of water mysteriously gush out of the desert floor at a place called Ash Meadows, an oasis that is home to 24 plant and animal species found nowhere else in the world.

A new Brigham Young University study indicates that the water arriving at Ash Meadows is completing a 15,000-year journey, flowing slowly underground from what is now the Nevada Test Site.

The U.S. government tested nuclear bombs there for four decades, and a crack in the Earth's crust known as the "Gravity Fault" connects its aquifer with Ash Meadows.

It will presumably be another 15,000 years before surfaces at Ash Meadows, Nelson said. A more pressing issue for wildlife managers at Ash Meadows is the current decline in populations of Devil's Hole Pupfish and three other endangered .

"Since the crust in Western states is being pulled apart east to west, it creates north-south fault lines such as this one that guides groundwater from one geographically closed basin to another," said Stephen Nelson, a BYU geology professor and co-author of the study.

The study appears in the May 28 issue of the Journal of Hydrology.

Of the possible sources, only water from the Nevada Test Site matched the profile of dissolved minerals and had comparable hydrogen and . Water from the Spring Mountains near Las Vegas - previously assumed to be the source of Ash Meadows water - carried a different isotopic signature.

The BYU researchers combed through more than 4,000 published water samples from the region, many of those from U.S. Geological Survey wells. From this large data set emerged 246 distinct groundwater sources that they tested against the chemical make-up of water from Ash Meadows.

"The results are parsimonious," Nelson said. "A majority of the water at Ash Meadows flows from the north through fractures in the Gravity Fault."

Explore further: TRMM satellite sees Tropical Storm Phanfone fragmented

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Caustic ash left behind by wildfires

Dec 06, 2007

U.S. geologists say ash and debris from California wildfires is full of arsenic, lead and other caustic materials that pose a health and safety risk.

Icelandic volcanoes can be unpredictable and dangerous

Apr 16, 2010

If history is any indication, the erupting volcano in Iceland and its immense ash plume could intensify, says a Texas A&M University researcher who has explored Icelandic volcanoes for the past 25 years.

New ash studies needed to 'limit air traffic chaos'

Apr 18, 2010

Better research models of how ash is dispersed would greatly reduce the air traffic havoc wreaked in Europe since an Icelandic volcano began spewing a giant cloud of the toxic dust last week, an expert said ...

Recommended for you

NASA's HS3 looks Hurricane Edouard in the eye

11 hours ago

NASA and NOAA scientists participating in NASA's Hurricane and Severe Storms Sentinel (HS3) mission used their expert skills, combined with a bit of serendipity on Sept. 17, 2014, to guide the remotely piloted ...

Tropical Storm Rachel dwarfed by developing system 90E

16 hours ago

Tropical Storm Rachel is spinning down west of Mexico's Baja California, and another tropical low pressure area developing off the coast of southwestern Mexico dwarfs the tropical storm. NOAA's GOES-West ...

NASA ocean data shows 'climate dance' of plankton

19 hours ago

The greens and blues of the ocean color from NASA satellite data have provided new insights into how climate and ecosystem processes affect the growth cycles of phytoplankton—microscopic aquatic plants ...

Glaciers in the grand canyon of Mars?

21 hours ago

For decades, planetary geologists have speculated that glaciers might once have crept through Valles Marineris, the 2000-mile-long chasm that constitutes the Grand Canyon of Mars. Using satellite images, ...

NASA support key to glacier mapping efforts

21 hours ago

Thanks in part to support from NASA and the National Science Foundation, scientists have produced the first-ever detailed maps of bedrock beneath glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica. This new data will help ...

User comments : 0