Experimental Measurement of Diffusive Extinction Depth and Soil Moisture Gradients in Southwestern Saudi Arabian Dune Sand
AdvisorsAmy, Gary L.
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AbstractIn arid lands, a major contribution to water loss is by soil water evaporation. Desert sand dunes in arid regions are devoid of runoff and have high rates of infiltration. Rainwater is commonly stored within them because of the low permeability soils in the underlying desert pavement. In such cases, moisture is confined in the sand dune below a depth, termed as the “extinction depth”, where it is protected from evaporation during long dry periods. Moreover, desert sand dunes have sparse vegetation, which results in low transpiration losses from the stored water. The water accumulated below the extinction depth of the sand dunes can be utilized for various purposes such as in irrigation to support desert agriculture. In this study, field experiments were conducted in Western Saudi Arabia to monitor the soil moisture gradients and determine the diffusive extinction depth of dune sand. The dune sand was saturated with water and was exposed to natural conditions (evaporation and precipitation). The decline of the water level in the sand column was continuously recorded using transducers and sensors installed at different depths monitored the temporal variation of temperature and moisture content within the sand. The hydrological simulator HYDRUS-1D was used to construct the vertical profiles of soil water content and temperature and the results obtained from HYDRUS-1D were compared to the gradients monitored by the sensors.