Abstract

The ground-penetrating radar (GPR) geophysical method has the potential to provide valuable information on the hydraulic properties of the vadose zone because of its strong sensitivity to soil water content. In particular, recent evidence has suggested that the stochastic inversion of crosshole GPR traveltime data can allow for a significant reduction in uncertainty regarding subsurface van Genuchten–Mualem (VGM) parameters. Much of the previous work on the stochastic estimation of VGM parameters from crosshole GPR data has considered the case of steady-state infiltration conditions, which represent only a small fraction of practically relevant scenarios. We explored in detail the dynamic infiltration case, specifically examining to what extent time-lapse crosshole GPR traveltimes, measured during a forced infiltration experiment at the Arreneas field site in Denmark, could help to quantify VGM parameters and their uncertainties in a layered medium, as well as the corresponding soil hydraulic properties. We used a Bayesian Markov-chain-Monte-Carlo inversion approach. We first explored the advantages and limitations of this approach with regard to a realistic synthetic example before applying it to field measurements. In our analysis, we also considered different degrees of prior information. Our findings indicate that the stochastic inversion of the time-lapse GPR data does indeed allow for a substantial refinement in the inferred posterior VGM parameter distributions compared with the corresponding priors, which in turn significantly improves knowledge of soil hydraulic properties. Overall, the results obtained clearly demonstrate the value of the information contained in time-lapse GPR data for characterizing vadose zone dynamics.

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