ABSTRACT

Earth and environmental sciences rely on detailed information about subsurface processes. Whereas geophysical techniques typically provide highly resolved spatial images, monitoring subsurface processes is often associated with enormous effort and, therefore, is usually limited to point information in time or space. Thus, the development of spatial and temporal continuous field monitoring methods is a major challenge for the understanding of subsurface processes. We have developed a novel method for ground-penetrating-radar (GPR) reflection monitoring of subsurface flow processes under unsaturated conditions and applied it to a hydrological infiltration experiment performed across a periglacial slope deposit in northwest Luxembourg. Our approach relies on a spatial and temporal quasicontinuous data recording and processing, followed by an attribute analysis based on analyzing differences between individual time steps. The results demonstrate the ability of time-lapse GPR monitoring to visualize the spatial and temporal dynamics of preferential flow processes with a spatial resolution in the order of a few decimeters and temporal resolution in the order of a few minutes. We observe excellent agreement with water table information originating from different boreholes. This demonstrates the potential of surface-based GPR reflection monitoring to observe the spatiotemporal dynamics of water movements in the subsurface. It provides valuable, and so far not accessible, information for example in the field of hydrology and pedology that allows studying the actual subsurface processes rather than deducing them from point information.

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