The rarefied (non-continuum) conditions of tracer particle transport in soils, with implications for assessing the intensity and depth dependence of mixing from geochronology

Furbish, David Jon; Schumer, Rina; Keen-Zebert, Amanda

We formulate tracer particle transport and mixing in soils due to disturbance-driven particle motions in terms of the Fokker–Planck equation. The probabilistic basis of the formulation is suitable for rarefied particle conditions, and for parsing the mixing behavior of extensive and intensive properties belonging to the particles rather than to the bulk soil. The significance of the formulation is illustrated with the examples of vertical profiles of expected beryllium-10 (inline-formula10Be) concentrations and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) particle ages for the benchmark situation involving a one-dimensional mean upward soil motion with nominally steady surface erosion in the presence of either uniform or depth-dependent particle mixing, and varying mixing intensity. The analysis, together with Eulerian–Lagrangian numerical simulations of tracer particle motions, highlights the significance of calculating ensemble-expected values of extensive and intensive particle properties, including higher moments of particle OSL ages, rather than assuming de facto a continuum-like mixing behavior. The analysis and results offer guidance for field sampling and for describing the mixing behavior of other particle and soil properties. Profiles of expected inline-formula10Be concentrations and OSL ages systematically vary with mixing intensity as measured by a Péclet number involving the speed at which particles enter the soil, the soil thickness, and the particle diffusivity. Profiles associated with uniform mixing versus a linear decrease in mixing with depth are distinct for moderate mixing, but they become similar with either weak mixing or strong mixing; uniform profiles do not necessarily imply uniform mixing.

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Furbish, David Jon / Schumer, Rina / Keen-Zebert, Amanda: The rarefied (non-continuum) conditions of tracer particle transport in soils, with implications for assessing the intensity and depth dependence of mixing from geochronology. 2018. Copernicus Publications.

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