Measuring Hydraulic Conductivity of Variably-Saturated Soils at the Hectometer Scale Using Cosmic-Ray Neutrons
AuthorKarczynski, Adam Michael
unsaturated hydraulic conductivity
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractHydraulic conductivity of variably-saturated soils is critical to understanding processes at the land surface. Yet measuring it over an area comparable to the resolution of land-surface models is fraught because of its strong spatial and temporal variations, which render point measurements nearly useless. We derived unsaturated hydraulic conductivity at the horizontal scale of hectometers and the vertical scale of decimeters by analyzing trends in soil moisture measured using the cosmic-ray neutron method. The resulting effective hydraulic conductivity remains close to its value at saturation over approximately half of the saturation range and then plummets. It agrees with the aggregate of 36 point measurements near saturation, but becomes progressively higher at lower water contents; the difference is potentially reconcilable by upscaling of point measurements. This study shows the feasibility of the cosmic-ray method, highlights the importance of measurement scale, and provides a route toward better understanding of land-surface processes.
Degree ProgramGraduate College