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Disentangling the groundwater response to Earth and atmospheric tides reveals subsurface processes and properties
conference contributionposted on 2020-01-01, 00:00 authored by Gabriel Rau, Timothy McMillan, Mark Cuthbert, Martin Andersen, Wendy TimmsWendy Timms, Philipp Blum
In situ quantification of subsurface hydro-geomechanical properties is challenging and requires significant effort. Evolving research illustrates that subtle harmonic components in groundwater head measurements caused by Earth and atmospheric tides can be utilised to explore groundwater systems with little effort compared to traditional investigations. One long standing problem has been that, for dominant tidal components, Earth and atmospheric tides occur at the same frequency which prevents the use of the groundwater response to their individual forcing to infer subsurface properties. While Acworth et al. (2016) offered a way forward, their approach has assumptions that limit the applicability. Here, we illustrate an extended method that disentangles the borehole water level response and attributes magnitude and phase to their individual drivers. As a result, we obtain individual changes in harmonic properties of the drivers and their groundwater response (amplitude ratio and phase shift) using borehole water level records from different locations. In conjunction with groundwater flow and poroelastic theory, these properties can be used to infer the state of confinement, quantify specific storage and hydraulic conductivity as well as barometric efficiency of the formation. Further, because the stresses imposed by Earth and atmospheric tides are volumetric and uniaxial, respectively, their individual responses can be used to reveal strain anisotropy. Our new approach is passive, i.e. it only requires the measurements of atmospheric and groundwater pressure records, and can provide further insight into subsurface processes and properties using information hidden in standard pressure records.