To investigate how bedrock transforms to soil, we mapped the topography of the interface demarcating onset of weathering under an east‐west trending shale watershed in the Valley and Ridge province in the USA Using wave equation travel‐time tomography from a seismic array of >4,000 geophones, we obtained a 3D P‐wave velocity (Vp) model that resolves structures ∼20 m below land surface (mbls). The depth of mobile soil and the onset of dissolution of chlorite roughly match Vp = 600 m/s and Vp = 2,700 m/s, respectively. Chlorite dissolution initiates porosity growth in the shale matrix. Depth to the 2,700 m/s contour is greater under the N‐ as compared to S‐facing hillslopes and under sub‐planar as compared to concave‐up land surfaces. Broadly, the geometries of the ‘soil’ and ‘chlorite’ Vp contours are consistent with the calculated potential for shear fracture opening under weak regional compression. However, this calculated fracture potential does not consistently explain observations related to N‐ versus S‐facing aspect nor fracture density observed by borehole televiewer. Apparently, regional compression is only a secondary influence on Vp: the primary driver of P‐wave slowing in the upper layers of this catchment is topographic control of reactive water flowpaths and their integrated effects on weathering. The Vp result is best explained as the long‐term integrated effect of groundwater flow‐induced geochemical weathering of shale in response to climate‐driven patterns of micro‐ and macro‐topography.
In weathered bedrock aquifers, groundwater is stored in pores and fractures that open as rocks are exhumed and minerals interact with meteoric fluids. Little is known about this storage because geochemical and geophysical observations are limited to pits, boreholes, or outcrops or to inferences based on indirect measurements between these sites. We trained a rock physics model to borehole observations in a well-constrained ridge and valley landscape and then interpreted spatial variations in seismic refraction velocities. We discovered that P-wave velocities track where a porosity-generating reaction initiates in shale in three boreholes across the landscape. Specifically, velocities of 2.7 ± 0.2 km/s correspond with growth of porosity from dissolution of chlorite, the most reactive of the abundant minerals in the shale. In addition, sonic velocities are consistent with the presence of gas bubbles beneath the water table under valley and ridge. We attribute this gas largely to CO2produced by 1) microbial respiration in soils as meteoric waters recharge into the subsurface and 2) the coupled carbonate dissolution and pyrite oxidation at depth in the rock. Bubbles may nucleate below the water table because waters depressurize as they flow from ridge to valley and because pores have dilated as the deep rock has been exhumed by erosion. Many of these observations are likely to also describe the weathering and flow path patterns in other headwater landscapes. Such combined geophysical and geochemical observations will help constrain models predicting flow, storage, and reaction of groundwater in bedrock systems.more » « less
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Publisher / Repository:
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
- Page Range / eLocation ID:
- p. 18991-18997
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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