Prediction, time variance, and classification of hydraulic response to recharge in two karst aquifers
Many karst aquifers are rapidly filled and depleted and therefore are likely to be susceptible to changes in short-term climate variability. Here we explore methods that could be applied to model site-specific hydraulic responses, with the intent of simulating these responses to different climate scenarios from high-resolution climate models. We compare hydraulic responses (spring flow, groundwater level, stream base flow, and cave drip) at several sites in two karst aquifers: the Edwards aquifer (Texas, USA) and the Madison aquifer (South Dakota, USA). A lumped-parameter model simulates nonlinear soil moisture changes for estimation of recharge, and a time-variant convolution model simulates the aquifer response to this recharge. Model fit to data is 2.4% better for calibration periods than for validation periods according to the Nash–Sutcliffe coefficient of efficiency, which ranges from 0.53 to 0.94 for validation periods. We use metrics that describe the shapes of the impulse-response functions (IRFs) obtained from convolution modeling to make comparisons in the distribution of response times among sites and between aquifers. Time-variant IRFs were applied to 62% of the sites. Principal component analysis (PCA) of metrics describing the shapes of the IRFs indicates three principal components that together account for 84% of the variability in IRF shape: the first is related to IRF skewness and temporal spread and accounts for 51% of the variability; the second and third largely are related to time-variant properties and together account for 33% of the variability. Sites with IRFs that dominantly comprise exponential curves are separated geographically from those dominantly comprising lognormal curves in both aquifers as a result of spatial heterogeneity. The use of multiple IRF metrics in PCA is a novel method to characterize, compare, and classify the way in which different sites and aquifers respond to recharge. As convolution models are developed for additional aquifers, they could contribute to an IRF database and a general classification system for karst aquifers.