Knowledge for Development

Mapping permeability over the surface of the Earth


Date: 03/05/2011


University of British Columbia researchers have produced the first map of the world outlining the ease of fluid flow through the planet's porous surface rocks and sediments. The maps and data, published in Geophysical Research Letters (January 2011), could help improve water resource management and climate modelling, and eventually lead to new insights into a range of geological processes.

Using recent world-wide lithology (rock type) results from researchers at the University of Hamburg (Germany) and Utrecht University (The Netherlands); the authors were able to map permeability across the globe to depths of approximately 100 metres. Typical permeability maps have only dealt with the top one to two metres of soil, and only across smaller areas.

A better understanding of large scale permeability of rock and sediment is critical for water resource management. Groundwater represents approximately 99 % of the fresh, unfrozen water on earth. Groundwater also feeds surface water bodies and moistens the root zone of terrestrial plants.

(Source: Science Daily, 25 Jan. 2011)

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