Fracture ventilation by surface winds

U. Nachshon, M. I. Dragila, N. Weisbrod

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


Gas exchange between the Earth subsurface and the atmosphere is an important mechanism, affecting hydrological, agricultural and environmental processes. From a hydrological aspect, water vapor transport is the most important process related to Earth-atmosphere gas exchange. In respect to agriculture, gas transport in the upper soil profile is important for soil aeration. From an environmental aspect, emission of volatile radionuclides, such as 3H, 14C and Rd from radioactive waste disposal facilities; volatile organic components from industrial sources and Rn from natural sources, all found in the upper vadose zone, can greatly affect public health when emissions occur in populated areas. Thus, it is vital to better understand gas exchange processes between the Earth's upper crust and atmosphere. Four major mechanisms are known to transfer gases between ground surface and atmosphere: (1) Diffusion; (2) Pressure gradients between ground pore sand atmosphere due to changes in barometric pressure; (3) Density-driven gas flow in respond to thermal gradients in the ground; and (4) Winds above the ground surface. Herein, the wind ventilation mechanism is studied. Whereas the wind's impact on ground ventilation was explored in several studies, the physical mechanisms governing this process were hardly quantified or characterized. In this work the physical properties of fracture ventilation due to wind blowing along land surface were explored and quantified. Both field measurements and Hele-Shaw experiments under controlled conditions in the laboratory were used to study this process. It was found that winds in the range of 0.3 m/s result in fracture ventilation down to a depth of 0.2 m. As wind velocity increases, the depth of the ventilation inside the fracture increases respectively, in a linear manner. In addition, the fracture aperture also affects the depth of ventilation, which grows as fracture aperture increases. For the maximal examined aperture of 2 cm and wind velocity of 1.25 m/s, fracture ventilation was deeper than 0.45 m. This study sheds new light on fracture ventilation, showing that moderate winds may increase evaporation and gas exchange between fractured media and the atmosphere. Even though wind impact is limited to the top 0.5 m below the ground surface, it is an important process as most of the biological activities, as well as important hydrological processes occur in this region. Wind effect should be considered when modeling mass and energy balances between the Earth upper crust and atmosphere.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAmerican Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2011
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2011


  • 1818 HYDROLOGY / Evapotranspiration
  • 1843 HYDROLOGY / Land/atmosphere interactions
  • 1875 HYDROLOGY / Vadose zone


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