Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Evolution of Soil Surface Roughness and Flow Path Connectivity in Overland Flow Experiments

Authors
item Darboux, F - GEOSCIENCES RENNES, FR
item Davy, P - GEOSCIENCES RENNES, FR
item Gascuel Odoux, C - ARONOMY DE RENNES, FR
item Huang, Chi Hua

Submitted to: Catena
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: December 14, 2000
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: During rainfall events, surface roughness affects runoff generation by providing temporary water storage in the depressions and by altering the flow direction on the surface. The process of runoff initiation involves the gradual filling of individual depressions and the connection of those overflowing depressions toward the outflow boundary. In this study, we examined the role of surface roughness on runoff initiation through rainfall simulation experiments on a soil box exposed to a sequence of four rainfall events with two levels of initial roughness and under two slope gradients. A laser scanner was used to measure surface microtopography and runoff initiation was analyzed by a computer model, which simulates the movement of water drops on the surface. Our results showed that as the surface evolved under rainfall, a preferential flow network developed due to erosion and deposition processes. New methodologies that can trace the water movement on the surface, such as the computer model used in this study, need to be developed to help understand surface erosion and runoff generation. IMPACT: This research leads to new concepts and procedures in quantifying runoff generation during rainfall. The findings will benefit scientists working on soil erosion, surface hydrology, and rainfall and runoff processes in developing models to predict runoff and erosion.

Technical Abstract: During rainfall events, surface roughness affects runoff generation by providing surface storage in the depressions and altering the flow direction on the surface. The process of runoff initiation involves the gradual filling of individual depressions and the connection of those overflowing depressions toward the outflow boundary. The study examines the role surface roughness on runoff initiation. Rainfall simulation experiments were conducted on a 2.4-m x 2.4-m soil box exposed to a sequence of four rainfall events with two levels of initial roughness and under two slope gradients. Surface microtopography was digitized by a laser scanner and variogram was used to express the scale-dependent roughness function. Variogram showed a gradual lowering indicating all scales of roughness were affected by rainfall similarly. Analyses of runoff triggering, using the conditional walker model, showed a major effect on runoff initiation from a small modification of micro- topographic structure. Even if the storage capacity is an important parameter of the runoff characteristics, large differences are observed between initial stages of each experiment and final stages. We attributed these differences to the creation of preferential connections between topography depressions due to the material redistribution. Since the variogram analysis may not be sensitive toward the development of preferential flow path in a local scale, additional methodologies, such as the conditioned-walker analysis, need to be incorporated in quantifying the role of surface microtopography on the dynamics of runoff generation.

Last Modified: 12/20/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page