It has been long known that land surface topography governs both groundwater flow patterns at the regional-to-continental scale and on smaller scales such as in the hyporheic zone of streams. Here we show that the surface topography can be separated in a Fourier-series spectrum that provides an exact solution of the underlying three-dimensional groundwater flows. The new spectral solution offers a practical tool for fast calculation of subsurface flows in different hydrological applications and provides a theoretical platform for advancing conceptual understanding of the effect of landscape topography on subsurface flows. We also show how the spectrum of surface topography influences the residence time distribution for subsurface flows. The study indicates that the subsurface head variation decays exponentially with depth faster than it would with equivalent two-dimensional features, resulting in a shallower flow interaction. Copyright 2006 by the American Geophysical Union.
Additional publication details
Exact three-dimensional spectral solution to surface-groundwater interactions with arbitrary surface topography