Interaction of soil water and groundwater during the freezing–thawing cycle: field observations and numerical modeling

Xie, Hong-Yu; Jiang, Xiao-Wei; Tan, Shu-Cong; Wan, Li; Wang, Xu-Sheng; Liang, Si-Hai; Zeng, Yijian

Freezing-induced groundwater-level decline is widely observed in regions with a shallow water table, but many existing studies on freezing-induced groundwater migration do not account for freezing-induced water-level fluctuations. Here, by combining detailed field observations of liquid soil water content and groundwater-level fluctuations at a site in the Ordos Plateau, China, and numerical modeling, we showed that the interaction of soil water and groundwater dynamics was controlled by wintertime atmospheric conditions and topographically driven lateral groundwater inflow. With an initial water table depth of 120 inline-formulacm and a lateral groundwater inflow rate of 1.03 inline-formulamm d−1, the observed freezing and thawing-induced fluctuations of soil water content and groundwater level are well reproduced. By calculating the budget of groundwater, the mean upward flux of freezing-induced groundwater loss is 1.46 inline-formulamm d−1 for 93 inline-formulad, while the mean flux of thawing-induced groundwater recharge is as high as 3.94 inline-formulamm d−1 for 32 inline-formulad. These results could be useful for local water resources management when encountering seasonally frozen soils and for future studies on two- or three-dimensional transient groundwater flow in semi-arid and seasonally frozen regions. By comparing models under a series of conditions, we found the magnitude of freezing-induced groundwater loss decreases with initial water table depth and increases with the rate of groundwater inflow. We also found a fixed-head lower boundary condition would overestimate freezing-induced groundwater migration when the water table depth is shallow. Therefore, an accurate characterization of freezing-induced water table decline is critical to quantifying the contribution of groundwater to hydrological and ecological processes in cold regions.

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Xie, Hong-Yu / Jiang, Xiao-Wei / Tan, Shu-Cong / et al: Interaction of soil water and groundwater during the freezing–thawing cycle: field observations and numerical modeling. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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