From atmospheric winds to fracture ventilation: Cause and effect

Authors

  • Uri Nachshon,

    1. Department of Environmental Hydrology and Microbiology, Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research, Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Midreshet Ben-Gurion, Israel
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  • Maria Dragila,

    1. Faculty of Soil Science, School of Integrated Plant, Soil and Insect Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, USA
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  • Noam Weisbrod

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Environmental Hydrology and Microbiology, Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research, Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Midreshet Ben-Gurion, Israel
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Corresponding author: N. Weisbrod, Department of Environmental Hydrology and Microbiology, Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research, Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Sede Boker Campus, Midreshet Ben-Gurion, 84990, Israel. (weisbrod@bgu.ac.il)

Abstract

[1] Vadose zone fractures and soil cracks exposed to the atmosphere have an impact on gas exchange processes at the Earth–atmosphere interface. In this study we explored and quantified the role of ground-surface winds on fracture ventilation. While the governing physical mechanisms that cause ventilation are relatively well understood, this is the first work to quantify these processes in natural fractures and to determine the net effect on gas exchange. In this study field measurements pointed to a correlation between surface wind velocity and the ventilate rate of surface-exposed fractures. To better explore and quantify this phenomenon, laboratory experiments were carried out using a Hele-Shaw chamber to simulate a natural fracture and the ventilation of smoke, used as a gas tracer, was explored as a function of controlled surface-wind and fracture aperture. It was found that ventilation depth is linearly correlated to wind velocity and nonlinearly with fracture aperture. Results were used to formulate an empirical model for Earth-atmosphere air exchange. This model can be used to estimate by how much the presence of fractures enhances that exchange under windy conditions. Incorporating this venting process into Earth-atmosphere gas exchange simulations is another step toward improving our ability to better predict and quantify soil aeration, soil temperature variation, water vapor loss and processes related to climate change, such as the fate and transport of greenhouse gases.