Infiltration And Soil Moisture Processes

PAUL R. HOUSER

Infiltration is the process of water entry from surface sources such as rainfall, snowmelt, or irrigation into the soil. The infiltration process is a component in the overall unsaturated redistribution process (Fig. I)1 that results in soil moisture availability for use by vegetation transpiration, exfiltration (or evaporation) processes, chemical transport, and groundwater recharge. Soil moisture, in turn, controls the partitioning of subsequent precipitation into infiltration and runoff, and the partitioning of available energy between sensible and latent heat flux.

Because of the importance of soil moisture on multiple processes, its definition can be elusive2; however, it is most often described as moisture in the unsaturated surface layers (first 1 to 2 m) of soil that can interact with the atmosphere through évapotranspiration and precipitation.3

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