Diurnal Variations in Vegetation Activity affecting Shallow Groundwater Flow identified by Microthermal Measurements

  • Maria de Fatima Santos Pinheiro Applied Geology, University of Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany
  • Günter Buntebarth Institute of Geology and Paleontology, Clausthal University of Technology, Clausthal - Zellerfeld, Germany.
  • Martin Sauter Leibniz - Instituts für Angewandte Geophysik, Hannover, Germany
Keywords: Geothermal, Groundwater, Atmospheric tides, Growing season, Plant physiology


Observations of summer microthermal temperature variations suggest, next to hydrological factors, a significant influence of plant activity on groundwater flow in fractured claystone materials. Variations in groundwater microtemperature were compared to variations in meteorological parameters and electrical potential of plants. With an increase in surface temperature, relative air humidity decreases and an increase in tree electrical potential, measured as the difference between the northern and the southern stem exposure (N–S), can be observed. This increase in electrical potential is concomitant with a change in groundwater temperature of approximately 2 mK. This relationship does not always occur. At high temperatures (+30°C) the decrease amounts to just 1 mK. This fact is related to the change in transpiration of plants, decreased or even suspended at high surface temperatures. A frequency analysis of all data showed a daily frequency of high magnitude in all parameters. Possibly changes in the macro weather situation events were observed in the results of atmospheric pressure, southern electric potential and groundwater temperature. The lag time between changes in electric potential and subsurface microtemperature changes amounts to 17 hours, possibly a result of the electrical potential difference between the northern and the southern exposure of the stem (N–S), and 5 hours, the result of the change in electrical potential difference between the southern and the northern stem exposure side (S–N). A comparison between potential changes and the computed change in gravity resulting from earth tidal effects showed that the correlation between the subsurface temperature variation with up to 2 mK and the change in surface temperature variation does not match directly. Other study shows that the impact of earth tides on subsurface microtemperature variation amounts to ca. 1mK. The effect of groundwater abstraction by mature vegetation is determined at the same range. Atmospheric tides can be correlated with the changes in north and south electric potentials.