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Discussion papers | Copyright
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2018-230
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 04 May 2018

Research article | 04 May 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

Reflection tomography of time-lapse GPR data for studying dynamic unsaturated flow phenomena

Adam R. Mangel1,2, Stephen M. J. Moysey2, and John Bradford1 Adam R. Mangel et al.
  • 1Department of Geophysics, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, Colorado, 80401, USA
  • 2Department of Environmental Engineering and Earth Science, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina, 29634, USA

Abstract. Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) reflection tomography algorithms allow non-invasive monitoring of water content changes resulting from flow in the vadose zone. The approach requires multi-offset GPR data that is traditionally slow to collect. We automate GPR data collection to reduce the survey time significantly, thereby making this approach to hydrologic monitoring feasible. The method was evaluated using numerical simulations and laboratory experiments that suggest reflection tomography can provide water content estimates to within 5–10%vol./vol. for the synthetic studies, whereas the empirical estimates were typically within 5–15% of measurements from in-situ probes. Both studies show larger observed errors in water content near the periphery of the wetting front, beyond which additional reflectors were not present to provide data coverage. Overall, coupling automated GPR data collection with reflection tomography provides a new method for informing models of subsurface hydrologic processes and a new method for determining transient 2D soil moisture distributions.

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Short summary
Water flows through soils in an incredibly complex network of pathways. Understanding these pathways is critical to sustainable use of water resources. Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) can image water in near-surface soils the same way an x-ray is used to image the human body. Utilizing innovative ways of collecting and processing the GPR data, we can image complex water flow in space and through time which allows for the continued development of our ideas and models of subsurface water flow.
Water flows through soils in an incredibly complex network of pathways. Understanding these...
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