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Flow pathways in the Slapton Wood catchment using temperature as a tracer

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Stephen Birkinshaw



This study investigates the potential of temperature as a tracer to provide insights into flow pathways. The approach couples fieldwork and modelling experiments for the Eastergrounds Hollow within the Slapton Wood catchment, South Devon, UK. Measurements in the Eastergrounds Hollow were carried out for soil temperature, spring temperature, and the stream temperature and use was made of an existing 1989–1991 data set for the entire Slapton Wood catchment. The predominant flow in this hollow is a result of subsurface stormflow, and previous work has suggested that the water flows vertically down through the soil and then subsurface stormflow occurs at the soil/bedrock interface where the water is deflected laterally. The depth of the subsurface stormflow was previously thought to be around 2.2 m. However, analysis of the new spring, stream and soil temperature data suggests a deeper pathway for the subsurface stormflow. Modelling of water flow and heat transport was carried out using SHETRAN and this was calibrated to reproduce the water flow in the entire Slapton Wood catchment and soil temperatures in the Eastergrounds Hollow. The model was tested for the entire Eastergrounds Hollow with two different soil depths. A depth of 2.2 m, based on previous knowledge, was unable to reproduce the Eastergrounds spring temperature. A depth of 3.7 m produced an excellent comparison between measured and simulated stream and spring temperatures in the Eastergrounds Hollow. This work suggests that the depth of the flow pathways that produce the subsurface stormflow are deeper than previously thought. It also provides a demonstration on the use of temperature as a tracer to understand flow pathways.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Birkinshaw SJ, Webb B

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Hydrology

Year: 2010

Volume: 383

Issue: 3-4

Pages: 269-279

Print publication date: 30/03/2010

Date deposited: 26/02/2010

ISSN (print): 0022-1694

Publisher: Elsevier BV


DOI: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2009.12.042


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