Studying the critical zone requires targeted research on water, energy, gas, solutes, and sediments.
The SSHCZO targets a 165-km2 watershed on sedimentary rocks in the northeastern United States.
One SSHCZO subcatchment, Shale Hills, provides extraordinary data describing a shale CZ.
The Susquehanna Shale Hills Critical Zone Observatory (SSHCZO) was established to investigate the form, function, and dynamics of the critical zone developed on sedimentary rocks in the Appalachian Mountains in central Pennsylvania. When first established, the SSHCZO encompassed only the Shale Hills catchment, a 0.08-km2 subcatchment within Shaver’s Creek watershed. The SSHCZO has now grown to include 120 km2 of the Shaver’s Creek watershed. With that growth, the science team designed a strategy to measure a parsimonious set of data to characterize the critical zone in such a large watershed. This parsimonious design includes three targeted subcatchments (including the original Shale Hills), observations along the main stem of Shaver’s Creek, and broad topographic and geophysical observations. Here we describe the goals, the implementation of measurements, and the major findings of the SSHCZO by emphasizing measurements of the main stem of Shaver’s Creek as well as the original Shale Hills subcatchment.