The Role of Atmospheric Conditions in CO2 and Radon Emissions from an Abandoned Water Well

Elad Levintal, Maria I. Dragila, Hovav Zafrir, Noam Weisbrod

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Boreholes and wells are complex boundary features at the earth-atmosphere interface, connecting the subsurface hydrosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere to the atmosphere above it. It is important to understand and quantify the air exchange rate of these features and, consequently their contribution as sources for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to the atmosphere. Here, we investigate the effect of atmospheric conditions, namely atmospheric pressure and temperature, on air, CO2, and radon transport across the borehole-ambient atmosphere interface and inside a 110-m deep by 1-m diameter borehole in northern Israel. Sensors to measure temperature, relative humidity, CO2, and radon were placed throughout a cased borehole. A standard meteorological station was located above the borehole. Data were logged at a high 0.5-min resolution for 9 months. Results show that climatic driving forces initiated 2 different advective air transport mechanisms. (1) Diurnal and semidiurnal atmospheric pressure cycles controlled daily air transport events (barometric pumping); and (2) There was a correlation between borehole-atmosphere temperature differences and transport on a seasonal scale (thermal-induced convection). Barometric pumping was identified as yielding higher fluxes of vadose zone gases than thermal-induced convection. Air velocities inside the borehole and CO2 emissions to the atmosphere were quantified, fluctuating from zero up to ~6 m/min and ~5 g-CO2/min, respectively. This research revealed the mechanisms involved in the process throughout the year and the potential contribution role played by boreholes to GHG emissions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number137857
Number of pages12
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 20 Jun 2020


  • Barometric pumping
  • Borehole
  • Gas transport
  • Greenhouse gases
  • Thermal-induced convection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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