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Velocity and celerity dynamics at plot scale inferred from artificial tracing experiments and time-lapse ERT

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>03/2017
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Hydrology
Number of pages16
Pages (from-to)28-43
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date24/12/16
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The relationship between tracer velocities and wave or wetting front celerities is essential to understand water flowing from hillslopes to the stream. The connection between maximum velocity and celerities estimated by means of experimental techniques has not been explored. To assess the pattern of infiltrating water front and dominant flow direction, we performed sprinkling experiments at a trenched plot in the Weierbach catchment in Luxembourg. Maximum velocities and wetting front celerities were inferred at different depths using artificial tracers, soil moisture measurements (TDR), and geophysical techniques. The flow direction was predominantly vertical within the observed plot, with almost no lateral flow observed until depths of 2-3 m; shallow trench flow was intermittent and associated with preferential flow. Average celerity estimates using TDR and geophisical techniques were equal to 707 ± 234 mm h-1 and 971 ± 625 mm h-1, respectively. Vertical maximum velocity estimates were tracer-dependent and had very variable ranges: 109.3 ± 89.3 mm h-1 (Cl-), 177.8 ± 199.1 mm h-1 (Br-), and 604.1 ± 610.7 mm h-1 (Li+). Preferential flow processes were inferred from maximum velocities apparently greater than celerities and scattered trench flow with highly variable tracer concentrations. The high variability between maximum velocities of different tracers indicated a complex pattern of tracer movement through the soil, not captured by celerity values alone. Our study demonstrated the importance to assess both velocities and celerities to understand flow dynamics in response to sprinkling while information on the wetting front alone would have missed important preferential flow processes.