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Determination of water content in drying soils: incorporating transition from liquid phase to vapour phase

F. Konukcu, A. Istanbulluoglu and I. Kocaman

Australian Journal of Soil Research 42(1) 1 - 8
Published: 16 February 2004


In arid and semi-arid environments, soil profiles often exhibit a liquid–vapour displacement known as evaporation front characterised by a critical matric potential (ψme) or water content (θe) located somewhere inside the unsaturated zone above a watertable (WT). The objective of this study was to determine the θe including the range of water content (θ) in the transition zone from liquid to vapour both theoretically and experimentally for different soil textures under saline and non-saline WTs. Characteristic shapes of water content and salt concentration profiles were the criteria to obtain θe experimentally, and the θ–diffusivity relationship was used to compute the θe and θ range in the transition zone. Measured θe values of 0.05 and 0.12 m3/m3 under non-saline WT and 0.07 and 0.15 m3/m3 under saline WT were in agreement with the computed values of 0.05 and 0.10 m3/m3 for sandy loam and clay loam soils, respectively. The model calculates roughly the same θe for saline and non-saline conditions. Besides experimental soils, θe and range of θ in the transition zone were calculated for silty loam and coarse sand. The lighter the soil texture, the smaller is θe and the steeper the transition zone. The results were further compared with those calculated by different authors.

Keywords: vapour diffusivity, liquid diffusivity, salinity, phase transformation, vapour flow, liquid flow.

© CSIRO 2004

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