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Hillslope response to sprinkling and natural rainfall using velocity and celerity estimates in a slate-bedrock catchment

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>03/2018
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Hydrology
Number of pages14
Pages (from-to)366-379
Early online date6/12/17
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Subsurface flow is often recognized as a dominant runoff generation process. However, observing subsurface properties, and understanding how they control flow pathways, remains challenging. This paper investigates how surface slope and bedrock cleavage control subsurface flow pathways in a slate bedrock headwater catchment in Luxembourg, characterised by a double-peak streamflow response. We use a range of experimental techniques, including field observations of soil and bedrock characteristics, and a sprinkling experiment at a site located 40 m upslope from the stream channel. The sprinkling experiment uses Br- as a tracer, which is measured at a well downslope from the plot and at various locations along the stream, together with well and stream hydrometric responses. The sprinkling experiment is used to estimate velocities and celerities, which in turn are used to infer flow pathways. Our results indicate that the single or first peak of double-peak events is rainfall-driven (controlled by rainfall) while the second peak is storage-driven (controlled by storage). The comparison between velocity and celerity estimates suggests a fast flowpath component connecting the hillslope to the stream, but velocity information was too scarce to fully support such a hypothesis. In addition, different estimates of celerities suggest a seasonal influence of both rainfall intensity rate and residual water storage on the celerity responses at the hillslope scale. At the catchment outlet, the estimated of the total mass of Br- recovered in the stream was about 2.5% of the application. Further downstream, the estimate mass of Br- was about 4.0% of the application. This demonstrates that flowpaths do not appear to align with the slope gradient. In contrast, they appear to follow the strike of the bedrock cleavage. Our results have expanded our understanding of the importance of the subsurface, in particular the underlying bedrock systems, and the importance of cleavage orientation, as well as topography, in controlling subsurface flow direction in this catchment.

Bibliographic note

This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Journal of Hydrology. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Journal of Hydrology, 558, 2018 DOI: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2017.12.011