Profiles of relative permittivity and electrical conductivity from unsaturated soil water content models

Roberta Porretta, Fabio Bianchi


A mathematical model of water diffusion in the vadose zone has been implemented for different types of soil textures in order to determine the soil water content (SWC) profiles in dependence of depth and time. From these profiles, obtained for different soils, we derived the characteristic electrical parameters, such as relative permittivity (epsilonr) and electrical conductivity (sigma), and their variation in time, employing empirical relations available in the scientific literature. The simulation through mathematical models has been performed taking into account different types of soils characterized by the percentage composition of sand, clay and silt in the textural triangle, which provides some physical and chemical properties that affect the water retention in the soil. The resulting simulated profiles of SWC and consequently permittivity and conductivity profiles, span over a certain range of values suggesting the best techniques and the limits in geophysical investigation. Moreover this a-prior knowledge helps in the elaboration and interpretation of permittivity and conductivity data obtained by the measurements. Permittivity and conductivity profiles are particularly useful in some environmental applications when the soil textures are (or supposed to be) known as in the typical case of landfill leachate dispersion. Since the soil textures beneath or nearby a disposal waste are characterized by a SWC, the values of (epsilonr) and (sigma) at various depth can be directly inferred.


Soil texture; Diffusion; Water content; Conductivity/permittivity profile

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Published by INGV, Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia - ISSN: 2037-416X