Transport in Porous Media

, Volume 112, Issue 1, pp 77–104 | Cite as

Quasi-Saturated Zones Induced by Rainfall Infiltration

  • Sun Dong-meiEmail author
  • Zang Yong-ge
  • Feng Ping
  • Stephan Semprich


The aim of this study was to investigate the formation, extents, and evolution of quasi-saturated zones during and after rainfall using numerical method. First, the TOUGH2/EOS3 simulator is modified to consider the hysteretic characteristic curves, which are verified by simulating a laboratory experiment conducted by other researchers and comparing the results with the measured data. Then, the validated model is used to investigate the features of quasi-saturated zones induced by rainfall infiltration of four soil types. As rainwater infiltrates soil, a quasi-saturated zone forms near the ground surface because infiltrating water drives pore air downwards; then, the pore-air pressure increases, the matric suction decreases, and the pore-water pressure becomes positive. Increased pore-air pressure in unsaturated zones provides excess energy to moisture above the groundwater table, allowing the moisture to overcome the matric suction and transfer the pore-water pressure when the pore-air pressure exceeds the matric suction. Then, a quasi-saturated zone forms above the groundwater table as well. The quasi-saturated zone near the surface becomes unsaturated when the rain stops, and airflow in the unsaturated zone recedes, which causes the quasi-saturated zone above the groundwater table to start dissipating. The quasi-saturated zone above the groundwater table reforms after the wetting front reaches the groundwater table. The formation of quasi-saturated zones is therefore induced by airflow pushing or water recharging, causing the pore-air pressure to exceed the matric suction; i.e., the pore-water pressure becomes positive. Differences between the quasi-saturated zones in four soil types are also explored. We conclude that the formation and dissipation of quasi-saturated zones are delayed in clay and silt because of delayed airflow.


Water–air two-phase flow Quasi-saturated zone Rainwater infiltration Rainfall-induced airflow 



Support for this research from the National Nature Science Founds of China (Grant Nos. 51179118 and 51579170) and the Science Fund for Creative Research Groups of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 51321065) is gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sun Dong-mei
    • 1
    Email author
  • Zang Yong-ge
    • 1
  • Feng Ping
    • 1
  • Stephan Semprich
    • 2
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Hydraulic Engineering Simulation and SafetyTianjin UniversityTianjinChina
  2. 2.Institute of Soil Mechanics and Foundation EngineeringGraz University of TechnologyGrazAustria

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