Articles | Volume 15, issue 9
Research article
15 Sep 2011
Research article |  | 15 Sep 2011

Infiltration-soil moisture redistribution under natural conditions: experimental evidence as a guideline for realizing simulation models

R. Morbidelli, C. Corradini, C. Saltalippi, A. Flammini, and E. Rossi

Abstract. The evolution in time, t, of the experimental soil moisture vertical profile under natural conditions is investigated in order to address the corresponding simulation modelling. The measurements were conducted in a plot with a bare silty loam soil. The soil water content, θ, was continuously monitored at different depths, z, using a Time Domain Reflectometry (TDR) system. Four buriable three-rod waveguides were inserted horizontally at different depths (5, 15, 25 and 35 cm). In addition, we used sensors of air temperature and relative humidity, wind speed, solar radiation, evaporation and rain as supports for the application of selected simulation models, as well as for the detection of elements leading to their improvement. The results indicate that, under natural conditions, very different trends of the θ(z, t) function can be observed in the given fine-textured soil, where the formation of a sealing layer over the parent soil requires an adjustment of the simulation modelling commonly used for hydrological applications. In particular, because of the considerable variations in the shape of the moisture content vertical profile as a function of time, a generalization of the existing models should incorporate a first approximation of the variability in time of the saturated hydraulic conductivity, K1s, of the uppermost soil. This conclusion is supported by the fact that the observed shape of θ(z, t) can be appropriately reproduced by adopting the proposed approach with K1s kept constant during each rainfall event but considered variable from event to event, however the observed rainfall rate and the occurrence of freeze-thaw cycles with high soil moisture contents have to be explicitly incorporated in a functional form for K1s(t).