skip to main content


Title: Toward a new parameterization of hydraulic conductivity in climate models: Simulation of rapid groundwater fluctuations in Northern California

Preferential flow through weathered bedrock leads to rapid rise of the water table after the first rainstorms and significant water storage (also known as ‘‘rock moisture’’) in the fractures. We present a new parameterization of hydraulic conductivity that captures the preferential flow and is easy to implement in global climate models. To mimic the naturally varying heterogeneity with depth in the subsurface, the model represents the hydraulic conductivity as a product of the effective saturation and a background hydraulic conductivity K bkg, drawn from a lognormal distribution. The mean of the background Kbkg decreases monotonically with depth, while its variance reduces with the effective saturation. Model parameters are derived by assimilating into Richards’ equation 6 years of 30 min observations of precipitation (mm) and water table depths (m), from seven wells along a steep hillslope in the Eel River watershed in Northern California. The results show that the observed rapid penetration of precipitation and the fast rise of the water table from the well locations, after the first winter rains, are well captured with the new stochastic approach in contrast to the standard van Genuchten model of hydraulic conductivity, which requires significantly higher levels of saturated soils to produce themore » same results. ‘‘Rock moisture,’’ the moisture between the soil mantle and the water table, comprises 30% of the moisture because of the great depth of the weathered bedrock layer and could be a potential source of moisture to sustain trees through extended dry periods. Moreover, storage of moisture in the soil mantle is smaller, implying less surface runoff and less evaporation, with the proposed new model.« less
 [1] ;  [1]
  1. Univ. of California, Berkeley, CA (United States)
Publication Date:
Grant/Contract Number:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 7; Journal Issue: 4; Journal ID: ISSN 1942-2466
American Geophysical Union (AGU)
Research Org:
Univ. of California, Berkeley, CA (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC)
Country of Publication:
United States
OSTI Identifier: