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  1. The belowground architecture of the critical zone (CZ) consists of soil and rock in various stages of weathering and wetness that acts as a medium for biological growth, mediates chemical reactions, and controls partitioning of hydrologic fluxes. Hydrogeophysical imaging provides unique insights into the geometries and properties of earth materials that are present in the CZ and beyond the reach of direct observation beside sparse wellbores. An improved understanding of CZ architecture can be achieved by leveraging the geophysical measurements of the subsurface. Creating categorical models of the CZ is valuable for driving hydrologic models and comparing belowground architectures between different sites to interpret weathering processes. The CZ architecture is revealed through a novel comparison of hillslopes by applying facies classification in the elastic-electric domain driven by surface-based hydrogeophysical measurements. Three pairs of hillslopes grouped according to common geologic substrates — granite, volcanic extrusive, and glacially altered — are classified by five different hydrofacies classes to reveal the relative wetness and weathering states. The hydrofacies classifications are robust to the choice of initial mean values used in the classification and noncontemporaneous timing of geophysical data acquisition. These results will lead to improved interdisciplinary models of CZ processes at various scales and to an increased ability to predict the hydrologic timing and partitioning. Beyond the hillslope scale, this enhanced capability to compare CZ architecture can also be exploited at the catchment scale with implications for improved understanding of the link between rock weathering, hydrochemical fluxes, and landscape morphology. 
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  2. Abstract

    A portion of water not consumed by crops during flood irrigation can flow back across the surface or through the subsurface to adjacent surface water bodies and streams as return flow. Few studies have directly addressed subsurface processes governing return flow and the importance of structural complexity on hydrologic process representation. It is challenging to measure and model these subsurface flow paths using traditional hydrologic observations. In this study, we assess the impact of subsurface structural complexity on vadose zone flow representation in a two‐dimensional transport model by varying structural complexity derived from background geophysical data. We assessed four model structures each with three soil types of homogeneous hydrologic properties, two of which were evaluated with and without an anisotropy factor. Wetting front arrival times, derived from time‐lapse electrical resistivity measurements during flood irrigation field experiments, were used to evaluate the different representations of soil profile structures. These data indicated both vertical and lateral preferential flow in the subsurface during flood irrigation. Inclusion of anisotropy in the saturated hydraulic conductivity field improved the ability to model subsurface hydrologic behavior when flow processes shifted from uniform to heterogeneous flow, as occurs with lateral subsurface return flow under flood irrigation driven by a large pressure gradient. This reduced the need for detailed spatial discretization to represent these observed subsurface flow processes. The resulting simple three‐layer model structure was better able to model both the vertical and lateral flow processes than a more complex geospatial structure, suggesting that overinterpretation of smoothed inverted profiles could lead to misrepresentation of the subsurface structure.

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  3. Abstract

    Subsurface weathering has traditionally been measured using cores and boreholes to quantify vertical variations in weathered material properties. However, these measurements are typically available at only a few, potentially unrepresentative points on hillslopes. Geophysical surveys, conversely, span many more points and, as shown here, can be used to obtain a representative, site‐integrated perspective on subsurface weathering. Our approach aggregates data from multiple seismic refraction surveys into a single frequency distribution of porosity and depth for the surveyed area. We calibrated the porosities at a site where cores are coincident with seismic refraction surveys. Modeled porosities from the survey data match measurements at the core locations but reveal a frequency distribution of porosity and depth that differs markedly from the cores. Our results highlight the value of using the site‐integrated perspective obtained from the geophysical data to quantify subsurface weathering and water‐holding capacity.

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