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Understanding the rapidity of subsurface storm flow response from a fracture-oriented shallow vadose through a new perspective

Zhao, Peng, Zhao, Pei, Liang, Chuan, Li, Tianyang, Zhou, Baojia
Journal of hydrology 2017 v.544 pp. 628-639
energy, gravity, hydrograph, models, rain, statistical analysis, storms, subsurface flow, tracer techniques, vadose zone
Velocity and celerity in hydrologic systems are controlled by different mechanisms. Efforts were made through joint sample collection and the use of hydrographs and tracers to understand the rapidity of the subsurface flow response to rainstorms on hourly time scales. Three deep subsurface flows during four natural rainstorm events were monitored. The results show that (1) deeper discharge was observed early in responding rainfall events and yielded a high hydrograph amplitude; (2) a ratio index, k, reflecting the dynamic change of the rainfall perturbation intensity in subsurface flow, might reveal inner causal relationships between the flow index and the tracer signal index. Most values of k were larger than 1 at the perturbation stage but approximated 1 at the no-perturbation stage; and (3) for statistical analysis of tracer signals in subsurface flows, the total standard deviation was 17.2, 11.9, 7.4 and 3.5 at perturbation stages and 4.4, 2.5, 1.1, and 0.95 at the non-perturbation stage for observed events. These events were 3–7 times higher in the former rather than the later, reflecting that the variation of tracer signals primarily occurred under rainfall perturbation. Thus, we affirmed that the dynamic features of rainfall have a key effect on rapid processes because, besides the gravity, mechanical waves originating from dynamic rainfall features are another driving factor for conversion between different types of rainfall mechanical energy. A conceptual model for pressure wave propagation was proposed, in which virtual subsurface flow processes in a heterogeneous vadose zone under rainfall are analogous to the water hammer phenomenon in complex conduit systems. Such an analogy can allow pressure in a shallow vadose to increase and decrease and directly influence the velocity and celerity of the flow reflecting a mechanism for rapid subsurface hydrologic response processes in the shallow vadose zone.