Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 16, Issue 5, pp 1198–1214 | Cite as

Predicting the entire soil-water characteristic curve using measurements within low suction range

  • Yun-xue Ye
  • Wei-lie ZouEmail author
  • Zhong Han
  • Xiao-wen Liu


The soil-water characteristic curve (SWCC) is widely used in the design and evaluation in the practice of geotechnical and geoenvironmental engineering such as the slope stability under the influence of environmental factors. The SWCC has distinct features in the capillary and adsorption zones due to different physical mechanisms. Measurements of the SWCC are typically limited within the capillary zone (i.e., low suction range). It is cumbersome and time-consuming to measure the SWCC in the adsorption zone (i.e., high suction range). This study presents a simple method to predict the entire SWCC within both the capillary and adsorption zones, using measured data only from low suction range (e.g., from 0 to 500 kPa). Experimental studies were performed on a completely weathered granite residual soil to determine its entire SWCC from saturated to dry conditions. The resultant SWCC, along with the SWCC measurements of 14 soils reported in the literature, were used to validate the proposed method. The results indicate that the proposed method has good consistency with a wide array of measured data used in this study. The proposed method is easy to use as it only requires a simple parameter calibration for a commonly used SWCC model. It can be used to improve the reliability in the prediction of the SWCC over the entire suction range when measurements are limited within the low suction range.


Unsaturated soils Soil-water characteristic curve Capillary Adsorption Prediction 





Gravimetric water content


Volumetric water content


Degree of saturation


Residual degree of saturation


Effective degree of saturation


Parameter related to the air-entry suction, kPa


Parameter related to pore-size distribution index


Parameter related to the overall geometry of the SWCC, and typically m = 1-1/n


Granite residual soil


Dry density


Saturated water content


Volume strains


Volume of the specimen at saturated state


Volume of the specimen at completely dry state


Pressure plate method


Filter paper method


Vapor equilibrium method


Sum of squares for error


Coefficient of determination


Mean error


Root mean square error

Pi, Mi

Predicted and measured values of the i-th data point, respectively


Number of data points.


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Authors appreciate the National Natural Science Fund of China (Grant Nos. 51779191, 51809199) for funding this research.


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Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Civil EngineeringWuhan UniversityWuhanChina
  2. 2.School of Civil EngineeringXijing UniversityXi’anChina
  3. 3.School of Architectural EngineeringNanchang UniversityNanchangChina

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