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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract -

Error Analysis of an Evaporation Method for Determining Hydrodynamic Properties in Unsaturated Soil


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 61 No. 3, p. 725-735
    Received: Oct 18, 1995

    * Corresponding author(s): laurent.bruckler@avignon.inra.fr
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  1. D. Mohrath,
  2. L. Bruckler ,
  3. P. Bertuzzi,
  4. J. C. Gaudu and
  5. M. Bourlet
  1. Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, Unité de Science du Sol, Domaine Saint Paul, Site Agroparc, 84914 Montfavet Cedex 9, France



Solving soil unsaturated flow problems requires knowledge of the water retention θ(h) and unsaturated hydraulic conductivity K(θ) relationships. The purpose of this study was to investigate more thoroughly the properties and accuracy of an evaporation method described by Wind (1969) for determining θ(h) and K(θ) from laboratory cores. Evaporation from a vertical column of soil was first simulated using numerical solution of Richards equation for a given set of soil hydraulic properties. The simulated data were then used to evaluate the ability of Wind's method to provide estimations of the retention and unsaturated conductivity curves when measurement errors were taken into account. The main sources of error were (i) errors due to the position of the tensiometers in the sample, (ii) errors due to the calibration of the transducers used for the pressure head measurements, and (iii) errors due to layering in the soil column. The estimated water retention curves were sensitive only to soil layering. On the other hand, small uncertainties in the position of the tensiometers (1 or 2 mm) and in the calibration curve of the transducers for the pressure head measurements (1–5%) had a great influence on the estimated hydraulic conductivity curves. A correction procedure was proposed and was satisfactory when errors of position in the tensiometers were taken into account. Results also showed that temperature corrections related to viscosity of liquid water were large. Finally, this method gives poor estimates of hydraulic conductivities when raw tensiometric data are corrupted with small errors in their position or calibration.

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