A sensor array system for profiling moisture in unsaturated rock and soil

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As the scope of hydrologic investigations extend deeper into the subsurface profile, and increasingly include fractured rock, there is a growing need for techniques that can accurately monitor saturation changes at a high spatial and temporal resolution in this environment. We have developed a technique, the Electrical Resistance Sensor Array System (ERSAS), to track moisture dynamics in vadose zone regions that include both fractured rock and soil. The performance of ERSAS was compared with the time domain reflectometry (TDR) technique under controlled and field conditions. We found that ERSAS was effective in determining patterns of saturation changes along vertical soil/rock profiles. Because of the small size of individual sensors, it was able to resolve travel times associated with a wetting front and peak saturation better than TDR. In addition, ERSAS is significantly cheaper than the TDR system, and the sensor arrays are relatively easier to install in the subsurface profile. Published in 2011 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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