Journal cover Journal topic
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
doi:10.5194/hess-2017-144
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
16 Mar 2017
Review status
This discussion paper is under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).
Monitoring infiltration and subsurface stormflow in layered slope deposits with 3D ERT and hydrometric measurements – the capillary barrier effect as crucial factor
Rico Hübner1, Thomas Günther2, Katja Heller1, Ursula Noell3, and Arno Kleber1 1Institute of Geography, Dresden University of Technology, Helmholtzstr.10, 01069 Dresden, Germany
2Leibniz Institute for Applied Geophysics (LIAG), Stilleweg 2, 30655 Hannover, Germany
3Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), Stilleweg 2, 30655 Hannover, Germany
Abstract. Identifying principles of water movement in the shallow subsurface is crucial for adequate process-based hydrological models. Hillslopes are the essential interface for water movement in catchments. The shallow subsurface on slopes typically consist of different layers with varying characteristics. The aim of this study was to draw conclusion about the infiltration behaviour, to identify water flow pathways and derive general validity about the water movement on a hillslope with periglacial slope deposits (cover beds), where the layers differ in their sedimentological and hydrological properties. Especially the described varying influence of the basal layer (LB) as impeding layer on the one hand and as a remarkable pathway for rapid subsurface stormflow on the other. We used a time lapse 3D ERT approach combined with punctual hydrometric data to trace the spreading and the progression of an irrigation plume in layered slope deposits during two irrigation experiments. This multi-technical approach enables us to connect the high spatial resolution of the 3D ERT with the high temporal resolution of the hydrometric devices. Infiltration through the uppermost layer was dominated by preferential flow, whereas the water flow in the deeper layers was mainly matrix flow. Subsurface stormflow due to impeding characteristic of the underlying layer occurs in form of "organic layer interflow" and at the interface to the first basal layer (LB1). However, the main driving factor for subsurface stormflow is the formation of a capillary barrier at the interface to the second basal layer (LB2). The capillary barrier prevents water from entering the deeper layer under unsaturated conditions and diverts the seepage water according to the slope inclination. With higher saturation the capillary barrier breaks down and water reaches the highly conductive deeper layer. This highlights the importance of the capillary barrier effect for the prevention or activation of different flow pathways under variable hydrological conditions.

Citation: Hübner, R., Günther, T., Heller, K., Noell, U., and Kleber, A.: Monitoring infiltration and subsurface stormflow in layered slope deposits with 3D ERT and hydrometric measurements – the capillary barrier effect as crucial factor, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss., doi:10.5194/hess-2017-144, in review, 2017.
Rico Hübner et al.
Rico Hübner et al.
Rico Hübner et al.

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In our study we used a spatially and temporally high resolved 3D ERT in combination with matric potential measurements to monitor the infiltration and subsurface water flow on a hillslope with layered slope deposits. We derived some interesting findings about the capillary barrier effect as main driving factor for the activation of different flow pathways. Thus, the maintenance or breakdown of a capillary barrier has a decisive influence on the precipitation runoff response of of the catchment.
In our study we used a spatially and temporally high resolved 3D ERT in combination with matric...
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