Relating the depth of the water table to the depth of weathering

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Abstract

Weathering of bedrock creates and occludes permeability, affecting subsurface water flow. Often, weathering intensifies above the water table. On the contrary, weathering can also commence below the water table. To explore relationships between weathering and the water table, a simplified weathering model for an eroding hillslope was formulated that takes into account both saturated and unsaturated subsurface water flow (but does not fully account for changes in dissolved gas chemistry). The phreatic line was calculated using solutions to mathematical treatments for both zones. In the model, the infiltration rate at the hill surface sets both the original and the eventual steady-state position of the water table with respect to the weathering reaction front. Depending on parameters, the weathering front can locate either above or below the water table at steady state. Erosion also affects the water table position by changing porosity and permeability even when other hydrological conditions (e.g. hydraulic conductivity of parent material, infiltration rate at the surface) do not change. The total porosity in a hill (water storage capacity) was found to increase with infiltration rate (all else held constant). This effect was diminished by increasing the erosion rate. We also show examples of how the infiltration rate affects the position of the water table and how infiltration rate affects weathering advance. Published 2020. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2167-2178
Number of pages12
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Volume45
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)

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