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  1. Abstract

    Understanding how soil thickness and bedrock weathering vary across ridge and valley topography is needed to constrain the flowpaths of water and sediment production within a landscape. Here, we investigate saprolite and weathered bedrock properties across a ridge‐valley system in the Northern California Coast Ranges, USA, where topography varies with slope aspect such that north‐facing slopes have thicker soils and are more densely vegetated than south‐facing slopes. We use active source seismic refraction surveys to extend observations made in boreholes to the hillslope scale. Seismic velocity models across several ridges capture a high velocity gradient zone (from 1,000 to 2,500 m/s) located ∼4–13 m below ridgetops that coincides with transitions in material strength and chemical depletion observed in boreholes. Comparing this transition depth across multiple north‐ and south‐facing slopes, we find that the thickness of saprolite does not vary with slope aspects. Additionally, seismic survey lines perpendicular and parallel to bedding planes reveal weathering profiles that thicken upslope and taper downslope to channels. Using a rock physics model incorporating seismic velocity, we estimate the total porosity of the saprolite and find that inherited fractures contribute a substantial amount of pore space in the upper 6 m, and the lateral porosity structure varies strongly with hillslope position. The aspect‐independent weathering structure suggests that the contemporary critical zone structure at Rancho Venada is a legacy of past climate and vegetation conditions.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024
  2. Abstract. A common parameter in hydrological modeling frameworks is root zone water storage capacity (SR[L]), which mediates plant water availability during dry periods as well as the partitioning of rainfall between runoff and evapotranspiration. Recently, a simple flux-tracking-based approach was introduced to estimate the value of SR (Wang-Erlandsson et al., 2016). Here, we build upon this original method, which we argue may overestimate SR in snow-dominated catchments due to snow melt and evaporation processes. We propose a simple extension to the method presented by Wang-Erlandsson et al. (2016) and show that the approach provides a lower estimate of SR in snow-dominated watersheds. This SR dataset is available at a 1 km resolution for the continental USA, along with the full analysis code, on the Google Colab and Earth Engine platforms. We highlight differences between the original and new methods across the rain–snow transition in the Southern Sierra Nevada, California, USA. As climate warms and precipitation increasingly arrives as rain instead of snow, the subsurface may be an increasingly important reservoir for storing plant-available water between wet and dry seasons; therefore, improved estimates of SR will better clarify the future role of the subsurface as a storage reservoir that can sustain forests during seasonal dry periods and episodic drought. 
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