Chemical weathering transforms rock to soil and determine soil texture, bedrock depth, and soil hydrological properties. At the Shale Hills watershed in central Pennsylvania, field evidence indicated that the regolith depth, hydrologic processes, and chemical depletion are different at the two aspects. Current regolith formation models considering reactive transport processes have a limitation in coupling complex and evolving hydrodynamic conditions. We hypothesize that deeper regolith forms when more water flushes dissolved mass out of the system. The hypothesis is tested by developing a two-dimensional regolith formation model at the hillslope scale using measured mineral composition and hydrologic properties at Shale Hills using CrunchFlow. A 2-D hillslope domain was setup to simulate hydrogeochemical processes at north and south aspects and to understand the evolution of hydrodynamics, rock properties, and extent of chemical reactions. The bedrock has the primary minerals of quartz, illite, chlorite, calcite, and pyrite; goethite and kaolinite precipitated as secondary minerals. The permeability, mass transfer, and groundwater table depth were constrained by field measurement. We implemented different recharge rates on north and south aspects based on the annually averaged fluxes from a current reanalysis using a hydrologic model. The simulation started from a homogeneous bedrock composition at 10,000 years ago. After 10,000 years’ weathering, the south facing aspect with small recharge rate has a shallower soil and regolith. The simulation output indicates the formation of a shallow and a deep groundwater, based on the formation of lateral flow that connects to the stream. One is at the interface between high permeability soil zone and low permeability regolith zone, forming a relatively high-velocity perched groundwater layer. The remnant water infiltrates into the deeper low permeability zone and forms the regional groundwater layer. Because of high permeability in perched layer on north facing aspect, the remnant water in regional groundwater layer leads to shallower water table depth on north facing aspect. The model will be used to understand the role fractures, climate, and mineral compositions in affecting regolith formation.
Xiao, D., Brantley, S.L., and Li, L. (2017): Understanding the hydrologic and geochemical control of regolith formation on shale in a hilly landscape. 2017 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, New Orleans, LA, 11-15 Dec .
This Paper/Book acknowledges NSF CZO grant support.