Water storage in a till catchment. II: Implications of transmissivity feedback for flow paths and turnover times

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This paper explores the flow paths and turnover times within a catchment characterized by the transmissivity feedback mechanism where there is a strong increase in the saturated hydraulic conductivity towards the soil surface and precipitation inputs saturate progressively more superficial layers of the soil profile. The analysis is facilitated by the correlation between catchment water storage and groundwater levels, which made it possible to model the daily spatial distribution of water storage, both vertically in different soil horizons and horizontally across a 6300-m2 till catchment. Soil properties and episodic precipitation input dynamics, combined with the influence of topographic features, concentrate flow in the horizontal, vertical, and temporal dimensions. Within the soil profile, there was a vertical concentration of lateral flow to superficial soil horizons (upper 30 cm of the soil), where much of the annual flow occurred during runoff episodes. Overland flow from a limited portion of the catchment can contribute to peak flows but is not a necessary condition for runoff episodes. The spatial concentration of flow, and the episodic nature of runoff events, resulted in a strong and spatially structured differentiation of local flow velocities within the catchment. There were large differences in the time spent by the laterally flowing water at different depths, with turnover times of lateral flow across a 1-m-wide soil pedon ranging from under 1 h at 10- to 20-cm depth to a month at 70- to 80-cm depth. In many regards, the hydrology of this catchment appears typical of the hydrology in till soils, which are widespread in Fenno-Scandia. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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