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Parameterization of a hydrologic model with geophysical data to simulate observed subsurface return flow paths

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  • Niels Claes
  • Ginger B. Paige, University of Wyoming
  • ,
  • Dario Grana, University of Wyoming, United States
  • Andrew D. Parsekian, Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Wyoming, Univ Wyoming, University of Wyoming, United States
A portion of water not consumed by crops during flood irrigation can flow back across the surface or through the subsurface to adjacent surface water bodies and streams as return flow. Few studies have directly addressed subsurface processes governing return flow and the importance of structural complexity on hydrologic process representation. It is challenging to measure and model these subsurface flow paths using traditional hydrologic observations. In this study, we assess the impact of subsurface structural complexity on vadose zone flow representation in a two‐dimensional transport model by varying structural complexity derived from background geophysical data. We assessed four model structures each with three soil types of homogeneous hydrologic properties, two of which were evaluated with and without an anisotropy factor. Wetting front arrival times, derived from time‐lapse electrical resistivity measurements during flood irrigation field experiments, were used to evaluate the different representations of soil profile structures. These data indicated both vertical and lateral preferential flow in the subsurface during flood irrigation. Inclusion of anisotropy in the saturated hydraulic conductivity field improved the ability to model subsurface hydrologic behavior when flow processes shifted from uniform to heterogeneous flow, as occurs with lateral subsurface return flow under flood irrigation driven by a large pressure gradient. This reduced the need for detailed spatial discretization to represent these observed subsurface flow processes. The resulting simple three‐layer model structure was better able to model both the vertical and lateral flow processes than a more complex geospatial structure, suggesting that overinterpretation of smoothed inverted profiles could lead to misrepresentation of the subsurface structure.
Original languageEnglish
JournalVadose Zone Journal
Publication statusPublished - 12 Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes

    Research areas

  • Near-surface, Geophysics, Hydrogeophysics, Agrogeophysics, ERT, ES-MDA

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