Visualizing Unsaturated Flow Phenomena Using High Resolution Reflection Ground Penetrating Radar

  • Haarder E
  • Looms M
  • Jensen K
 et al. 
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Unsaturated flow phenomena, such as unstable wetting fronts and preferential flow, cannot be investigated using small-scale sampling. Dye tracer experiments can help visualize the dynamics of water flow but are destructive and therefore irreproducible. We investigated the applicability of high-resolution ground penetrating radar (GPR) for nondestructive visualization of unsaturated flow patterns arising from a forced infiltration experiment. Synthetic studies using a reflection GPR two-dimensional finite difference time domain modeling code indicated that differences in water content caused by preferential flow and fingering could be resolved. Moisture content contrasts down to approximately 2.5% within the top 2 m were detectable, but with increasing degrees of heterogeneity in the subsurface it becomes difficult to distinguish these moisture content changes. We conducted a field experiment in which 100 mm (900 L) of Brilliant Blue dyed water was infiltrated across a 3- by 3-m area in relatively homogenous and undisturbed sandy alluvial sediments. Reflection GPR data were collected before and after infiltration. Dye-staining patterns, revealed by excavating a 2-m-deep trench through the infiltration area, were compared with changes in the GPR data. Reflection amplitude changes as well as reflection delay revealed signifi- cant differences within the dye-stained area. The GPR data provided information about the unsaturated flow below the extent of the dye staining, and the results ofthe synthetic GPR modeling, as well as the observed changes in the real GPR data set, underline the potential of reflection GPR as a nondestructive method to map unsaturated flow phenomena

Author-supplied keywords

  • Brilliant Blue
  • Field experiment
  • GPR
  • HELP
  • Infiltration
  • Modeling
  • Two-dimensional
  • Water
  • alluvial
  • dye tracer
  • dynamics
  • finite difference
  • flow pattern
  • ground penetrating radar
  • heterogeneity
  • l
  • map
  • preferential flow
  • sampling
  • sediment
  • subsurface
  • time domain
  • tracer
  • unsaturated
  • unsaturated flow
  • water flow
  • wetting front

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  • E B Haarder

  • M C Looms

  • K H Jensen

  • J Nielsen

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