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Difference infiltrometer: a method to measure temporally variable infiltration rates during rainstorms

November 1, 2012

We developed a difference infiltrometer to measure time series of non-steady infiltration rates during rainstorms at the point scale. The infiltrometer uses two, tipping bucket rain gages. One gage measures rainfall onto, and the other measures runoff from, a small circular plot about 0.5-m in diameter. The small size allows the infiltration rate to be computed as the difference of the cumulative rainfall and cumulative runoff without having to route water through a large plot. Difference infiltrometers were deployed in an area burned by the 2010 Fourmile Canyon Fire near Boulder, Colorado, USA, and data were collected during the summer of 2011. The difference infiltrometer demonstrated the capability to capture different magnitudes of infiltration rates and temporal variability associated with convective (high intensity, short duration) and cyclonic (low intensity, long duration) rainstorms. Data from the difference infiltrometer were used to estimate saturated hydraulic conductivity of soil affected by the heat from a wildfire. The difference infiltrometer is portable and can be deployed in rugged, steep terrain and does not require the transport of water, as many rainfall simulators require, because it uses natural rainfall. It can be used to assess infiltration models, determine runoff coefficients, identify rainfall depth or rainfall intensity thresholds to initiate runoff, estimate parameters for infiltration models, and compare remediation treatments on disturbed landscapes. The difference infiltrometer can be linked with other types of soil monitoring equipment in long-term studies for detecting temporal and spatial variability at multiple time scales and in nested designs where it can be linked to hillslope and basin-scale runoff responses.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2012
Title Difference infiltrometer: a method to measure temporally variable infiltration rates during rainstorms
DOI 10.1002/hyp.9424
Authors John A. Moody, Brian A. Ebel
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Hydrological Processes
Index ID 70189352
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Research Program - Central Branch

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