Effect of atmospheric temperature on underground radon: A laboratory experiment

Gustavo Haquin, Hovav Zafrir, Danielle Ilzycer, Noam Weisbrod

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The effect of atmospheric temperature on underground radon flow was investigated in a customized climate-controlled laboratory (CCL) system, which enabled us to isolate the impact of ambient atmospheric temperature variations on underground radon transport. The soil thermal gradients that developed, following atmospheric warming, acted as the driving force for the diffusive radon flow, resulting in a decrease in the radon concentration along the experimental column setup at a rate of ∼70 Bq∙m−3 per oC∙m−1 (∼0.4% of the radon concentration). When the ambient temperature decreased, compared to the soil temperature, an air-soil temperature difference developed along the column, which acted as a driving force for radon to flow along the column and promptly increased the radon concentration at a rate of ∼140 Bq∙m−3 per oC (∼0.8% of the radon concentration). The overall radon concentration changes under the experimental conditions were up to 30%. The changes in the molecular diffusion coefficient in the experimental temperature range were ∼7%, with thermal diffusion as a possible additional mechanism contributing to radon transport due to temperature. The cyclic changes in ambient temperature in the forced conditions experiments were found to be directly correlated with underground radon oscillations. The same frequency for ambient temperature and radon concentration, along the experimental column in low frequency warming-cooling cycles (i.e., 4–8 days), was found. This good correlation was lost at higher frequencies (two days or more), due to the asymmetrical response of radon to atmospheric warming and cooling. The results of this study explain some of the field observations in underground radon monitoring.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106992
JournalJournal of Environmental Radioactivity
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2022


  • Air-soil temperature difference
  • Climate-controlled laboratory
  • Diffusion
  • Temperature gradient
  • Underground radon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Environmental Chemistry


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