The Lisse Effect Revisited

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Abstract

The Lisse effect is a rarely noted phenomenon occurring when infiltration caused by intense rain seals the surface soil layer to airflow, trapping air in the unsaturated zone. Compression of air by the advancing front results in a pressure increase that produces a water-level rise in an observation well screened below the water table that is several times as large as the distance penetrated by the wetting front. The effect is triggered by intense rains and results in a very rapid water-level rise, followed by a recession lasting a few days. The Lisse effect was first noted and explained by Thal Larsen in 1932 from water-level observations obtained in a shallow well in the village of Lisse, Holland. The original explanation does not account for the increased air pressure pushing up on the bottom of the wetting front. Analysis of the effect of this upward pressure indicates that a negative pressure head at the base of the wetting front, Ψf, analogous to that postulated by Green and Ampt (1911) to explain initially rapid infiltration rates into unsaturated soils, is involved in producing the Lisse effect. Analysis of recorded observations of the Lisse effect by Larsen and others indicates that the water-level rise, which typically ranges from 0.10 to 0.55 m, should be only slightly larger than |Ψf| and that the depth of penetration of the wetting front is no more than several millimeters.

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