Estimating the macroscopic capillary length from Beerkan infiltration experiments and its impact on saturated soil hydraulic conductivity predictions

Massimo Iovino, Vincenzo Bagarello, Mirko Castellini, Filippo Giadrossich, Mario Pirastru, Ryan D. Stewart, Majdi R. Abou Najm, Simone Di Prima, Rafael Angulo-Jaramillo, Laurent Lassabatere

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The macroscopic capillary length, λc, is a fundamental soil parameter expressing the relative importance of the capillary over gravity forces during water movement in unsaturated soil. In this investigation, we propose a simple field method for estimating λc using only a single-ring infiltration experiment of the Beerkan type and measurements of initial and saturated soil water contents. We assumed that the intercept of the linear regression fitted to the steady-state portion of the experimental infiltration curve could be used as a reliable predictor of λc. This hypothesis was validated by assessing the proposed calculation approach using both analytical and field data. The analytical validation demonstrated that the proposed method was able to provide reliable λc estimates over a wide range of soil textural characteristics and initial soil water contents. The field testing was performed on a large database including 433 Beerkan infiltration experiments, with the 99% of the experiments yielding realistic λc values. The generated λc values were then used in conjunction with four different methods for estimating saturated soil hydraulic conductivity, Ks. Estimated Ks values were close to those generated by a reference method, with relative error < 25% in nearly all cases. By comparison, assuming constant or soil-dependent λc values caused relative errors in Ks of up to 600%. Altogether, the proposed method constitutes an easy solution for estimating λc, which can improve our ability to estimate Ks in the field.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Volume589
Publication statusPublished - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology

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