Computational Sustainability Seminar: Nonequilibrium physics and computation of water infiltration in dry soil
Speaker: Ruben Juanes , MIT Civil and Environmental EngineeringContact:
Date: October 13 2011
Time: 3:00PM to 4:00PM
Host: Brian Williams, CSAIL
Zico Kolter, firstname.lastname@example.orgRelevant URL: http://projects.csail.mit.edu/compsust/seminar_f11/
Talk Title: Nonequilibrium physics and computation of water infiltration in dry soil: Implications for the ecohydrology of arid regions
Abstract: The ecology and water budget of arid and semi-arid ecosystems depend critically on the dynamics of soil water. We show that pattern formation during water infiltration in soil, or fingering (Figure), exerts a powerful control on evapotranspiration, and allows for the presence of subsoil water and deep drainage fluxes in arid and semiarid climates, where potential evapotranspiration far exceeds mean annual precipitation. Subsoil water is available to deeply rooted plants, and recharges groundwater resources at rates that are potentially much higher than those previously estimated using simplified models of infiltration. We present a simplified point model of coupled vegetation and soil moisture dynamics, and establish the impact of fingering instabilities on the coexistence, competition and resilience of different plant communities. The proposed mechanism may be essential to explain the structure and resilience of water-stressed ecosystems, moderating their response to climate variability.
Bio: Ruben Juanes is the ARCO Associate Professor in Energy Studies in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT. Prior to joining the MIT faculty in 2006, he was Acting Assistant Professor at Stanford University (2003-2005), and Assistant Professor at UT Austin (2006). He leads a research group in the area of multiphase flow in porous media, with application to geophysical problems in the areas of energy and the environment. He holds MS and PhD Degrees from the University of California at Berkeley.
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