Hydraulic Evolution of Karst Microfracture

L. M. Windom, M. I. Dragila, N. Weisbrod

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


Karst terrain comprises an astounding 25% of our planet's potable water resources, yet the evolution of these systems from micro-fracture to open channel is poorly understood. Focusing on the unsaturated portion of an evolving karst system, we present a conceptual model for the hydraulic evolution of micro-fractures into larger conduits. Tensional micro-fractures (<1mm thick) under unsaturated conditions may be eroded by water flowing either as seepage films or as capillary rivulets. In addition to general erosion, the narrow width of capillary rivulets may etch the beginning of preferential paths within the tensional micro-fractures that will lead to tubular channels. Both fluid mechanisms, seepage and rivulets, were tested in the laboratory, and data of the resulting geochemical erosion rates are presented in the form of calcium dissolution rates measured by inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAmerican Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2017
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2017


  • 1807 Climate impacts
  • 1829 Groundwater hydrology
  • 1830 Groundwater/surface water interaction
  • 1847 Modeling


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