Free and Forced Convection in High Permeability Porous Media: Impact on Gas Flux at the Earth-atmosphere Interface

N. Weisbrod, E. Levintal, M. I. Dragila, T. Kamai

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Gas movement within the earth's subsurface and its exchange with the atmosphere is one of the principal elements contributing to soil and atmospheric function. As the soil permeability increases, gas circulation by convective mechanisms becomes significantly greater than the diffusion. Two of the convective mechanisms, which can be of great importance, are being explored in this research. The first one is thermal convection venting (TCV), which develops when there are unstable density gradients. The second mechanism is wind induced convection (WIC), which develops due to surface winds that drive air movement. Here, we report the results of a study on the relationships between the porous media permeability and particle size, and the development and magnitude of TCV and WIC with the development of thermal differences and surface winds. The research included large high-permeability column experiments carried out under highly controlled laboratory conditions, using well-defined single-sized spherical particles while surface winds and thermal differences were forced and monitored. CO2 enriched air, functioned as a tracer, was used to quantify the impact of TCV and WIC on gas migration in the porous media. Results show that in homogenous porous media a permeability range of 10-7 to 10-6 m2 is the threshold value for TCV onset under standard atmospheric conditions. Adding surface wind with an average velocity of 1.5 m s-1 resulted in WIC effect to a depth of -0.3 m in most experimental settings; however, it did not caused additional air circulation at the reference depth of -0.9 m. Furthermore, given the appropriate conditions, a combined effect of TCV and WIC did significantly increase the overall media ventilation. Simulations of temperature profiles in soil under that permeability, showed that as the thermal gradient changes with depth and is a continuous function, TCV cells can be developed in local sections of the profile, not necessarily reaching the atmosphere.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2015
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2015


  • 3307 Boundary layer processes
  • 3322 Land/atmosphere interactions
  • 1818 Evapotranspiration
  • 1866 Soil moisture


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