Thomas J. Burbey

Professor of Hydrogeosciences

My research is broadly in the field of physical hydrogeology with expertise in regional aquifer system analysis, and regional groundwater flow modeling. My research efforts pertain largely to the use of stress-strain signals for characterizing aquifer properties and reservoirs used for domestic groundwater or CO2 sequestration. My expertise lies in three-dimensional aquifer deformation and flow modeling by incorporating InSAR (synthetic aperture radar) and GPS techniques for quantifying land subsidence (vertical and horizontal) and its relation to aquifer storage and hydraulic conductivity at the local and regional scales. I also have done extensive work on characterizing aquifers in fractured-rock environments including the use of barometric loading and earth tides for fracture characterization and more broadly on how geologic structure can lead to compartmentalization of fractured rock systems. Fault characterization using deformation signals in 3D is also a newer approach that I'm using to better understand fault mechanics. I have also developed management models with the aim of predicting effects of various water-use scenarios.


Ph.D., Hydrology/Hydrogeology, University of Nevada-Reno, 1994

M.S., Hydrology/Hydrogeology, University of Nevada-Reno, 1984

B.S., Geology/Geophysics, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1981

During my 20 years at Virginia Tech, my research endeavors have been greatly broadened through my own inquisition, by my peers and students, and societal needs, but my core research objectives have remained fairly fixed. My main research focus has been to develop and advance methodologies to better characterize aquifer systems by taking advantage of observations that extend beyond using only water-level signals, which is what is used in traditional aquifer testing. Aquifer characterization remains one of the most important aspects of hydrogeology and is critical for evaluating the rate, and direction of flow and transport and for quantifying aquifer sustainability and viability, which can be particularly acute in regions where groundwater mining has been occurring for some time. Accurate water-management models require precise vertical and areal hydraulic and mechanical properties of the aquifer system in order to make informed decisions about the impacts of future pumping patterns and rates as population growth continues in many large structural basins where natural recharge is limited and conservation is often a necessity. In order to provide accurate predictive models, detailed parameterization is needed, but historical water-level data alone are not capable of providing sufficient information to adequately parameterize complex hydrostratigraphic and structural systems. My research involves the use and development of techniques and new data observations to more accurately and precisely quantify the hydraulic and poromechanical characteristics of aquifer and fault systems that will lead to highly accurate water-management models in the future.

Book Chapters

  • Burbey, T.J., 2014, Aquifer and Ground Water Storage. In, Encyclopedia of Natural Resources, Ed. Y.Q. Wang, Taylor and Francis Publishing, New York, p. 595-599.

Peer Reviewed Papers

  • Hester, E.T., Greer, B.M., Zipper, C.E., and Burbey, T.J., 2016, Using geophysical imaging to track water movement through surface coal mine valley fills, Reclamation Matters.
  • Burbey, T.J., and Brandon, R.A., (2016, accepted) Characterization of a hydraulically induced crystalline-rock fracture, Hydrologic Processes
  • Greer, B.M., Burbey, T.J., Zipper, C.E, and Hester, E.T., 2016 (in review), Electrical resistivity imaging of preferential flow through surface coal mine valley fills with comparison to other land forms: Hydrologic Processes
  • Zhang, M., and Burbey, T.J., 2016 (in review)Quantifying high resolution hydrologic parameters at the basin scale using InSAR and inverse modeling, Las Vegas, NV: Hydrological Processes
  • Zhou, X, and Burbey, T.J., 2016 (accepted) How a percolating flow path occurs during aquifer pressurization: Hydrogeology Journal
  • Zhou, X., and Burbey, T.J., 2015, The mechanism of faulting regimes change over depth in the sedimentary layers in an intracratonic basin: Arabian Journal of Geosciences, vol 9, no. 1, p. , DOI: 10.1007/s12517-015-2053-7.
  • Bloxom, L.K., and Burbey, T.J., 2015, Determination of the location of the groundwater divide and nature of groundwater flow paths within a region of active stream capture, the New River watershed, Virginia, USA: Environmental Earth Sciences, v.74, no. 3, p. 2687-2699; DOI: 10.1007/s12665-015-4290-1
  • Zhou, X, Burbey, T.J., and Westman, E., 2015, The effect of caprock permeability on shear stress path at the aquifer-caprock interface during fluid injection: International Rock Mechanics and Mining Science, v 77, p 1-10.
  • Zhang, M, and Burbey, T.J., 2015, A comparison of three hydraulic parameter optimization schemes for Las Vegas Valley: Environmental & Engineering Geoscience, v. 121, p. 174-179; doi:10.2113/EEG-1672
  • Zhou, X, and Burbey, T.J., 2014, Deformation characteristics of a clayey interbed during fluid injection: Engineering Geology, v. 183, p. 185-192.
  • Zhou, X., and Burbey, T.J., 2014, Comparison between fluid-injection induced ground deformation caused by fracture and porous medium pressurization: Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering, v. 121, p. 174-179.
  • Chen, Y., Shu, L., and Burbey, T.J., 2014, An integrated risk-assessment model of township-scaled land subsidence based on an evidential reasoning algorithm and fuzzy set theory, Risk Analysis, v. 34, no. 4, p. 656-669.
  • Zhou, X. and Burbey, T.J., 2014, How horizontal surface deformation during fluid injection correlates to the reservoir permeability setting: Environmental & Engineering Geoscience, v. 20, no. 3, p. 305-320.
  • Zhou, X., and Burbey, T.J., 2014, Pore pressure response to sudden fault slip for three typical faulting regimes: Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, v. 104, no. 2, p. 293-308, DOI: 10.1785/0120130139
  • Hernandez-Marin, M., Pacheco-Martinez, J., Ramirez-Cortes, A, Burbey, T.J., Ortiz-Lozano, J.A., Zermeño-de-Leon, M., Guinzberg-Velmont, J., and Pinto-Aceves, G., 2014, Evaluation and analysis of surface deformation in West Chapala Basin, central Mexico: Environmental Earth Science, v. 72, p. 1491-1501.
  • Zhang, M., Burbey, T.J. Nunes, V.T., and Borggaard, J., 2014, A new zonation algorithm with parameter estimation using hydraulic head and subsidence measurements, Groundwater Journal, v. 42, No. 4, p. 514-524.
  • Zhou, X., and Burbey, T.J., 2014, Fluid effect on hydraulic fracture propagation behavior: a comparison between water and supercritical CO2-like fluid: Geofluids, v. 14, Issue 2, p. 174-188.
  • Pacheco-Martínez, J., Hernández-Marin, M., Burbey, T.J., Cervantes-Gonzáles, N., Ortíz-Lozano, J.A., and Zermeño-De-León, 2013, Land subsidence and ground failures due to groundwater exploitation in the Aguascalientes Valley, Mexico, Engineering Geology, v. 164, p.172-186.
  • Burbey, T.J., 2013, Poroelastic effects on fracture characterization, Groundwater Journal, v 31, no. 6, p. 904-913.
  • Chen, Y., Shu, L., and Burbey, T.J., 2013, Composite subsidence vulnerability assessment based on an index model and index decomposition method: Journal of Human and Ecological Risk Assessment, v. 19, no. 3, p. 674-698. Zhou, X., and
  • Burbey, T.J., 2012, A FEM approach to measure Skemton’s B coefficient for supercritical CO2 saturated rock: Environmental and Engineering Geoscience, v. 18, no. 4, p. 343-355.
  • Hernandez-Marin, M., and Burbey, T.J., 2012, Fault-controlled deformation and stress from pumping-induced groundwater flow in a hydrogeologic setting, Journal of Hydrology, v. 428-429, p. 80-93.
  • Roningen, J.M, and Burbey, T.J., 2012, Hydrogeologic controls on lake level: A case study at Mountain Lake, Virginia, USA: Hydrogeology Journal, v. 20, no. 6, p. 1149-1167, DOI 10.1007/s10040-012-0859-x, 19 p.
  • Burbey, T.J., Hisz, D., and Murdoch, L.C., Zhang, M., 2012, Quantifying fractured crystalline-rock properties using well tests, Earth tides and barometric effects: Journal of Hydrology, v. 414-415, p. 317-328.
  • Gannon, J.P., Burbey, T.J., Bodnar, R.J., and Aylor, J., 2012, Hydrogeologic characterization of the Chatham fault at the Coles Hill Uranium Deposit, Virginia: Hydrogeology Journal, v. 20, p. 45-60, DOI 10.1007/s10040-011-0798-y.
  • Galloway, D.L., and Burbey, T.J., 2011, Review: Regional land subsidence accompanying groundwater extraction: Hydrogeology Journal, v. 19, no 8, p. 1459-1486. doi 10.1007/s10040-011-0775-5.
  • Hernandez-Marin, M., and Burbey, T.J. 2010, Controls on initiation and propagation of pumping-induced earth fissures: Insights from numerical simulation: Hydrogeology Journal, DOI 10.1007/s10040-010-0642-9, v. 18, no. 8, pg. 1773-1785.
  • Burbey, T.J., and Zhang, M., 2010, Assessing hydrofracing success from Earth tide and barometric response: Ground Water Journal, v. 48, no. 6, p. 825-835.
  • Burbey, T.J., 2010, Fracture characterization using earth tide analysis: Journal of Hydrology, v. 380, issue 3-4, p. 237-246, doi:10.1016/jjhydrol.2009.10.037.
  • Hernandez-Marin, M., and Burbey, T.J., 2009, The role of faulting on surface deformation patterns from pumping induced ground-water flow: Hydrogeology Journal, 10.1007/s10040-009-0501-8, v. 17., no. 8, p. 1859-1875.
  • Yan, T., and Burbey, T.J., 2008, The value of subsidence data in ground-water model calibration: Ground Water, v. 46, no. 4, p. 438-450.
  • Burbey, T.J., 2008, The influence of geologic structures on deformation due to ground-water withdrawal: Ground Water, v. 46, no. 2, p. 202-211.
  • Rugh, D.E., and Burbey, T.J., 2008, Using Saline Tracers to Evaluate Preferential Recharge in Fractured Rocks, Floyd County, Virginia, USA: Hydrogeology Journal, v. 16, no. 2, p. 251-262.
  • White, B.A., and Burbey, T.J., 2007, Evidence for structurally controlled recharge in the Blue Ridge Province, Virginia, USA: Hydrogeology Journal, v. 15, no. 5, p. 929-943.
  • Burbey, T.J., 2006, Three-dimensional deformation and strain induced by municipal pumping, Part 2: Numerical analysis: Journal of Hydrology, v 330, p. 422-434.
  • Burbey, T.J., Warner, S.M., Blewitt, G., Bell, J.W., and Hill, E., 2006, Three-dimensional deformation and strain induced by municipal pumping, Part 1: Analysis of field data: Journal of Hydrology v. 319 p. 123-142.
  • Seaton, W.J., and Burbey, T.J., 2005, Influence of ancient thrust faults on the hydrogeology of the Blue Ridge Province: Ground Water, v. 43, no. 3, p. 301-313.
  • Gentry, W.M, and Burbey, T.J., 2004, Characterization of Groundwater Flow from Spring Discharge in a Crystalline-Rock Environment: Jour. Amer. Water Resour. Assoc., v. 40, no. 5, p. 1205-1217.
  • Pope J.P. and Burbey T.J., 2004, Multiple-aquifer characterization from single borehole extensometer records: Ground Water, v 42, no. 1, p. 45-58.
  • Burbey, T.J., 2003, Use of time-subsidence data during pumping to characterize specific storage and hydraulic conductivity of semi-confining units: Jour. of Hydrology, v. 281, no 1-2, pp. 3-22.
  • Pope, J.P., and Burbey, T.J., 2003, Characterization and modeling of land subsidence due to ground-water withdrawals from the confined aquifers of the Virginia Coastal Plain: in Prince, K.R. and Galloway, D.L., eds., U.S. Geological Survey Subsidence Interest Group Conference, Proceedings of the Technical Meeting, Galveston, Texas, November 27-29, 2001: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 03-308, p. 49-56.
  • Seaton, W.J., and Burbey, T.J., 2002, Evaluation of two-dimensional resistivity methods in a fractured crystalline-rock terrane: Jour. of Applied Geophysics, v 51, no. 1, pp. 21-41.
  • Burbey, T.J., 2002, The influence of faults in basin-fill deposits on land subsidence, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA: Hydrogeology Journal, v. 10, no. 5, pp. 525-538. Burbey, T.J., 2001, Stress-strain analyses for aquifer-system characterization: Ground Water, v. 39, no. 1, pp. 128-136. Burbey, T.J., 2001, Storage coefficient revisited: Is purely vertical strain a good assumption?: Ground Water, v. 39, no. 3, p. 458-464.
  • Burbey, T.J., Younos, Tamim, and Anderson, E.T., 2000, Hydrologic analysis of discharge sustainability from an abandoned coal mine: Jour. of the Amer. Water Resour. Assoc., v. 36, no. 5, pp. 1161-1172.
  • Seaton, W.J., and Burbey T.J., 2000 Aquifer characterization in the Blue Ridge Physiographic Province using resistivity profiling and borehole geophysics: Jour. of Environ. and Eng. Geophysics, v. 5, no. 3, pp. 45-58.
  • Burbey, T J., 1999, Effects of horizontal strain in estimating specific storage and compaction in confined and leaky aquifer systems: Hydrogeology Journal, v. 7, no. 6., pp. 521-532.
  • Burbey, T.J., and Helm D.C., 1999, Modeling three-dimensional deformation in response to pumping of unconsolidated aquifers: Environmental and Engineering Geoscience: v. 5, no 2, pp. 199-212.
  • Burbey, T.J., 1997, Hydrogeology and potential for ground-water development, carbonate-rock aquifers, southern Nevada and southeastern California: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 95-4168, 65 p.
  • Dettinger, M.D., and Burbey, T.J., 1997, Methods for delineating sources of water to wells in basin-fill aquifers—implications for wellhead protection programs: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resource Investigations Report.
  • Burbey, T.J., 1995, Pumpage and water-level change in the principal aquifer system of Las Vegas Valley, Nevada, 1980-90: Nevada Division of Water Resources, Water-Resources Information Report 34, 224 p.
  • Prudic, D.E., Harrill, J.R., and Burbey, T.J.,1995, Conceptual evaluation of regional ground- water flow in the Carbonate-Rock Province of the Great Basin, Nevada, Utah, and adjacent states: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1409-D, 102 p.
  • Burbey, T.J., 1993, Shallow ground water in the Whitney area southeastern Las Vegas Valley, Clark County, Nevada--Part II Assessment of a proposed strategy to reduce the contribution of salts to Las Vegas Wash: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 92-4051, 58 p.
  • Groundwater Hydrology (GEOS 4804/5804G): Spring or Fall
  • Quantitative Hydrogeology (GEOS 5804): Spring
  • Groundwater Flow Modeling (GEOS 5814/CEE 5354): Fall
  • Programming for Scientists (GEOS 3024): Spring or Fall
Thomas Burbey

Academic Profiles