As geochemists, we frequently need to describe the chemical states of natural waters, including how dissolved mass is distributed among aqueous species, and to understand how such waters will react with minerals, gases, and fluids of the Earth's crust and hydrosphere. We can readily undertake such tasks when they involve simple chemical systems, in which the relatively few reactions likely to occur can be anticipated through experience and evaluated by hand calculation. As we encounter more complex problems, we must rely increasingly on quantitative models of solution chemistry and irreversible reaction to find solutions. The field of geochemical modeling has grown rapidly since the early 1960s, when the first attempt was made to predict by hand calculation the concentrations of dissolved species in seawater. Today's challenges might be addressed by using computer programs to trace many thousands of reactions in order, for example, to predict the solubility and mobility of forty or more elements in buried radioactive waste. Geochemists now use quantitative models to understand sediment diagenesis and hydrothermal alteration, explore for ore deposits, determine which contaminants will migrate from mine tailings and toxic waste sites, predict scaling in geothermal wells and the outcome of steam-flooding oil reservoirs, solve kinetic rate equations, manage injection wells, evaluate laboratory experiments, and study acid rain, among many examples. Teachers let their students use these models to learn about geochemistry by experiment and experience. Many hundreds of scholarly articles have been written on the modeling of geochemical systems, giving mathematical, geochemical, mineralogical, and practical perspectives on modeling techniques. Dozens of computer programs, each with its own special abilities and prejudices, have been developed (and laboriously debugged) to analyze various classes of geochemical problems. In this book, I attempt to treat geochemical modeling as an integrated subject, progressing from the theoretical foundations and computational concerns to the ways in which models can be applied in practice. In doing so, I hope to convey, by principle and by example, the nature of modeling and the results and uncertainties that can be expected. Hollywood may never make a movie about geochemical modeling, but the field has its roots in top-secret efforts to formulate rocket fuels in the 1940s and 1950s.
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