Radon concentrations range from <185 to 3,515 Bq m−3 throughout Lechuguilla Cave, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico. Concentrations in the entrance passages and areas immediately adjacent to these passages are controlled by outside air temperature and barometric pressure, similar to other Type 2 caves. Most of the cave is developed in three geographic branches beneath the entrance passages; these areas maintain Rn levels independent of surface effects, an indication that Rn levels in deep, complex caves or mines cannot be simply estimated by outside atmospheric parameters. These deeper, more isolated areas are subject to convective ventilation driven by temperature differences along the 477-m vertical extent of the cave. Radon concentrations are used to delineate six microclimate zones (air circulation cells) throughout the cave in conjunction with observed airflow data. Suspected surface connections contribute fresh air to remote cave areas demonstrated by anomalous Rn lows surrounded by higher values, the presence of mammalian skeletal remains, CO2 concentrations and temperatures lower than the cave mean, and associated surficial karst features.
©1991Health Physics Society