How fast the earth surface breathe? Gas transport in high permeability soils and earth surface discontinuities

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


Gas movement within the earth"s subsurface and its exchange with the atmosphere are some of the principal processes in soil, ecosystem, and atmospheric environments. For a decade, our group has explored the roles played by atmospheric conditions and matrix properties in gas transport at the earth-atmosphere interface, where surface discontinuities, such as fractures, boreholes and aggregated soils, exist and may affect the process. The gas transport mechanisms, resulting from the development of a thermal gradient and surface wind, were analyzed both independently and in combination. Two types of experiments were carried out: (1) under field conditions and (2) under highly controlled laboratory conditions. During all studies, temperature and wind conditions across the media and at the media-atmosphere interface were monitored. Results show that the magnitudes of thermal- and wind-induced convection were directly related to the media permeability, given favorable ambient conditions at the media-atmosphere interface. Such ambient conditions included high diurnal temperature amplitude (~± 10 ᵒC) or high surface wind (~2 m/s measured 10 m above ground). In addition, specific results from the field experiment were used to establish an empirical model that predicts gas transport magnitude as a function of wind speed and media permeability.With respect to other discontinuities, such as boreholes and fractures, the effect of atmospheric conditions was investigated, namely atmospheric pressure and temperature, on air, CO2, and radon transport. Using high-resolution spatiotemporal measurements, it was concluded that diurnal atmospheric pressure oscillations (barometric pumping) and borehole-atmospheric temperature differences (thermal-induced convection) controlled the air transport within the boreholes. For one of the boreholes monitored, the air velocities and CO2 emissions to the atmosphere were quantified (up to ~6 m/min and ~5 g-CO2/min, respectively). This reveals the role of boreholes as a source of greenhouse gas emissions. The results and conclusions derived from our studies are expected to improve our understanding of the governing mechanisms controlling gas movement in porous media, fractures, and boreholes, and their functions in gas exchange across the earth-atmosphere interface.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEGU General Assembly, held online 19-30 April, 2021
StatePublished - Apr 2021


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