Deep-seated, complex tunnel systems - A hydrological study in a semi-arid catchment, Loess Plateau, China

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During 1989-90, detailed monitoring of deep-seated, complex tunnel systems was conducted in Yangdaogou, a subbasin in the Hilly Loess Region, Shanxi, which has a catchment area of 0.203 km2. It was found that tunnel flow hydrological processes were characterized by a quick response to rainfall, an early flow peak, and a short duration. All the tunnel discharge was derived from overland flow entering via inlets. However, discharge is not significantly related to rainfall parameters in some tunnels, which is contrary to observations on surface plots. Field surveys show frequent blockages of tunnels caused by collapses inside the tunnels which could be reopened in subsequent events, as well as the occasional abrupt opening of new inlets. As a result, tunnel discharge was highly erratic in some of the monitored events. Partial damming within the tunnel systems may also be involved. Hence, instability in the tunnel systems is one of the key factors affecting their hydrologic response. During the period of monitoring, fifteen events occurred and on average at least 43% (ranging from 0 to 78%) of the total basin water discharge was routed through four major tunnel systems which account for 90% of the catchment area of all tunnel systems in the basin. The deep-seated tunnel systems in this area seem not to be developed from the micro-pipes close to the surface. Instead, they are most likely formed in some catastrophic storms and expanded in subsequent storms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)255-267
Number of pages13
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Oct 1997
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

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  • Hydrology
  • Loess
  • Piping
  • Semi-arid environment


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