State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project ID: 2008PA88B
Title: Seeing into the subsurface: Detecting and visualizing preferential flow in situ using innovative approaches
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2008
End Date: 2/28/2009
Congressional District: 5th
Focus Categories: Hydrology, Methods, Solute Transport
Keywords: preferential flow, subsurface flow network, flow visualization, ground penetrating radar
Principal Investigator: Lin, Henry
Federal Funds: $ 19,546
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 46,405
Abstract: The lack of an effective means for detecting and visualizing subsurface flow dynamics has constrained our understanding and predicting of vadose zone processes such as subsurface stormflow and groundwater recharge. Growing evidence suggest that subsurface flow network is a key to understanding hydrologic processes including hillslope threshold behavior. The dynamic origin of network structures in soils and hydrologic systems and recurrent patterns of self-organization are the subjects of recent research and model development. The goal of this project is to investigate innovative approaches for detecting subsurface preferential flow using noninvasive time-lapse Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) and to visualize the subsurface flow process using a 3- and 4-dimensional scientific visualization system. The time-lapsed GPR measurements will be combined with real-time soil hydrologic monitoring to detect subsurface preferential flow pathways and their dynamics. The hypothesis to be tested is that an internal network structure exists in the subsurface of many hillslopes, which governs vertical and lateral preferential flow dynamics and the threshold-like hydrologic response under varying precipitation, soil, and antecedent moisture conditions. This project focuses on fundamental hydrologic processes in hillslope and watershed hydrology that impacts the management of humid forest catchments in Pennsylvania and across the Northeast. Another benefit of this project is its potential in revitalizing the education of soil and water sciences, as the dearth of effective and compelling visualizations of the heterogeneous and dynamics world underfoot has limited students and the general public's interest and understanding of complex soil and water interactions.

Progress/Completion Report, PDF

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