Abstract

Soils are excellent reflectors of ground-penetrating radar (GPR) signals because of the ability of organic matter to hold water. In this paper, GPR profiles of an eolian sedimentary succession are combined with textural, dielectric, and moisture-retention characteristics to illustrate the influence of soil moisture on radar-wave reflection. Organic matter in this succession varies strongly, from ;lt 0.15% for clean sand to 7% for the most prominent soil, whereas grain-size distributions are comparable. Moisture-retention curves show a complex relationship between suction potential (pF) and volumetric water content (𝛉). As a result of their uniform pore-size distribution, clean sand and weakly developed soils with ;lt 1% organic matter experience a sudden loss of water between pF 1.5 and pF 1.8, going directly from saturated to almost dry conditions. In contrast, the most prominent soil shows a more gradual decrease in 𝛉 with increasing suction potential. It follows that the dielectric contrast between clean sand and this soil increases sharply above pF 1.5, reaches a maximum value at field-capacity conditions, and then decreases slowly. Synthetic GPR images for different suction potentials show that field-capacity conditions, when reflection coefficients are high, are favorable for tracing one single soil. Dry sediments are preferable when imaging widely spaced soils, whereas saturated sediments are best when imaging closely spaced soils.

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