Feedbacks between shallow ground water dynamics and surface topography on runoff generation in flat fields

Willemijn Appels*, Patrick Bogaart, S.E.A.T.M. van der Zee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In winter, saturation excess (SE) ponding is observed regularly in temperate lowland regions. Surface runoff dynamics are controlled by small topographical features that are unaccounted for in hydrological models. To better understand storage and routing effects of small-scale topography and their interaction with shallow groundwater under SE conditions, we developed a model of reduced complexity to investigate SE runoff generation, emphasizing feedbacks between shallow groundwater dynamics and mesotopography. The dynamic specific yield affected unsaturated zone water storage, causing rapid switches between negative and positive head and a flatter groundwater mound than predicted by analytical agrohydrological models. Accordingly, saturated areas were larger and local groundwater fluxes smaller than predicted, leading to surface runoff generation. Mesotopographic features routed water over larger distances, providing a feedback mechanism that amplified changes to the shape of the groundwater mound. This in turn enhanced runoff generation, but whether it also resulted in runoff events depended on the geometry and location of the depressions. Whereas conditions favorable to runoff generation may abound during winter, these feedbacks profoundly reduce the predictability of SE runoff: statistically identical rainfall series may result in completely different runoff generation. The model results indicate that waterlogged areas in any given rainfall event are larger than those predicted by current analytical groundwater models used for drainage design. This change in the groundwater mound extent has implications for crop growth and damage assessments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10336-10353
JournalWater Resources Research
Volume53
Issue number12
Early online date8 Dec 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2017

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