Ecohydrological processes in the root zone act as a dynamic interface between the atmosphere and the deeper soil layers, modulating the conditions that drive chemical weathering along the soil profile. Among these processes, soil moisture dynamics respond to intermittent rainfall pulses and to runoff and evapotranspiration losses. In addition, carbon dioxide (CO2) and its associated acidity are introduced into the soil moisture via root and microbial respiration. The coupling of soil moisture and CO2 dynamics in the root zone acts as an important controller of the critical zone development through the chemical weathering and water chemistry exported through runoff and percolation. Due to spatial and temporal variability and non-linearity, modeling these coupled root zone soil moisture and CO2 dynamics presents a number of challenges. In this talk, a lumped, macroscopic approach to modeling soil moisture, CO2 transport, and chemical weathering in the critical zone is introduced. The model considers a homogeneous soil column, therefore simplifying known spatial heterogeneities, and focuses on temporal variability resulting from non-linear processes and stochastic rainfall forcing. First, at short time-scales, the deterministic temporal evolution of soil moisture, dissolved inorganic carbon, pH, and alkalinity is analyzed using a dynamical system approach. Second, at longer inter-annual time-scales where rainfall stochasticity becomes an important driver of the system behavior, the system is analyzed probabilistically and its average behavior described using a novel macroscopic approach. This averaging of the nonlinear stochastic dynamics results in a closure problem that is addressed through a first-order approximation of non-linear fluxes, including the correlation between soil moisture and solutes. The model provides a method to assess how changes in external forcing or system properties propagate into and alter critical zone structure and function, and to isolate the main feedbacks between the system components and the role of the governing parameters.
Porporato, A.; Parolari, A. (2015): A lumped, macroscopic approach to modeling soil moisture, CO2 transport, and chemical weathering in the critical zone. American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, December 2015, San Francisco, CA.