GPR Research at the Susquehanna-Shale Hills Critical Zone Observatory

This Friday (11/21) Graduate student Lacey Pitman successfully defended her masters thesis titled: “Ground-penetrating Radar Images of a Dye Tracer Test Within the Unsaturated Zone at the Susquehanna-Shale Hills CZO.”

Here is the abstract:

Dye tracer and time-lapse ground-penetrating radar (GPR) were used to image preferential flow paths in the shallow, unsaturated zone on hillslopes in two adjacent watersheds within the Susquehanna-Shale Hills Critical Zone Observatory (CZO). At each site we injected about 50 L of water mixed with brilliant blue dye (4 g/L) into a trench cut perpendicular to the slope (~1.0 m long by ~0.20 m wide by ~0.20 m deep) to create a line of infiltration. GPR (800 MHz antennae with constant offset) was used to monitor the movement of the dye tracer downslope on a 1.0 m x 2.0 m grid with a 0.05 m line spacing. The site was then excavated and the stained pathways photographed to document the dye movement. We saw a considerable difference in the pattern of shallow preferential flow between the two sites despite similar soil characteristics and slope position. Both sites showed dye penetrating down to saprolite (~0.40 m); however, lateral flow migration between the two sites was different. At the Missed Grouse field site, the lateral migration was ~0.55 m as an evenly dispersed plume, but at distance of 0.70 m a finger of dye was observed. At the Shale Hills field site, the total lateral flow was ~0.40 m, dye was barely visible until the excavation reached ~0.10 m, and there was more evidence of distinct fingering in the vertical direction. Based on laboratory and field experiments as well as processing of the radargrams, the following conclusions were drawn: 1) time-lapse GPR successfully delineated the extent of lateral flow, but the GPR resolution was insufficient to detect small fingers of dye; 2) there was not a distinct GPR reflection at the regolith-saprock boundary, but this interface could be estimated from the extent of signal attenuation; 3) the preliminary soil moisture conditions may explain vi differences in the extent of infiltration at the two sites; 4) rapid infiltration into the underlying saprock limited the extent of shallow lateral flow at both sites and can be seen using the mass balance calculation and the lateral extent of dye within the radargrams; and 5) variations in flow patterns were observed between sites with similar settings at Susquehanna-Shale Hills CZO.

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