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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Environmental Microbial & Food Safety Laboratory

Title: Geophysics applications in critical zone science: emerging topics

item Pachepsky, Yakov
item Martinez, Gonzalo
item Guber, Andrey
item Walthall, Charles
item Vereecken, Harry

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/1/2012
Publication Date: 12/2/2012
Citation: Pachepsky, Y.A., Martinez, G., Guber, A., Walthall, C.L., Vereecken, H. 2012. Geophysics applications in critical zone science: emerging topics. [abstract].

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Geophysical studies have resulted in remarkable advances in characterization of critical zone. The geophysics applications uncover the relationships between structure and function in subsurface as they seek to define subsurface structural units with individual properties of retention and transmission of water, energy, solutes, electrical charge, etc. Several focal points of the research have emerged as the knowledge base of the critical zone geophysics grows. Time-lapse or multiple geophysical surveys admittedly improve the subsurface characterization. One of intriguing possibilities here is to use the temporal variation in geophysical parameters among time-lapse surveys directly to model spatial variation in soil properties affecting soil-water contents. Because critical phenomena causing erratic routing have been recently discovered in hillslope subsurface flow networks, it remains to be seen whether the time-lapse imagery depicts the same flow network if weather conditions are seemingly similar. High-frequency network observations usually reveal the temporal stability patterns in soil variables, including water contents, CO2 fluxes, etc. It becomes clear that these patterns can be described with spatiotemporal geostatistics models, and the opportunity arises to infer the spatial correlation structure of soil parameters from temporal variations of soil dynamic variables. There are indications that the spatial correlation structures of the geophysical parameters and soil/plant variables can be similar even though the correlations between these parameters are low. This may open additional avenues for mapping sparsely measured soil and plant variables. Fallacies of scale in geophysical depicting subsurface structural units and patterns are far from being understood. Soil state variables affect geophysical retrieval in nonlinear ways, and therefore scale effects in retrievals are warranted. For this reason, the strength and type of dependencies between geophysical and ecological variables are bound to vary with support and spacing. The mismatch between supports of soil measurement and geophysical footprints has been acknowledged but not resolved. Search is under way for metrics to compress dense geophysical data to be analyzed jointly with the sparser ecological information in space and time. Segmentation methods are needed that are specific to the data generated in critical zone geophysics. The geophysical data presentation will remain an art to some extent, and therefore interaction between form and content in this presentation is of interest. Currently modeling abandons the role of consumer of the structural information about the flow and transport domain, and becomes an organic part of the retrieval process. Much more is done in aquifer modeling than in modeling of variably saturated domains. Model abstraction and multimodeling can provide the functional evaluation of the retrieval components, such as segmentation, and results. The gap remains between the rich information content of the geophysical data and complexity of models in which the retrieval results are used. Field critical zone research is hardly possible without the input from geophysics. It is critical to achieve a tighter coupling of geophysical tools with other tools used in diagnostics, monitoring, and prediction of critical zone processes.

Last Modified: 10/18/2017
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