Spatial soil moisture scaling structure during Soil Moisture Experiment 2005


Soil moisture state and variability control many hydrological and ecological processes as well as exchanges of energy and water between the land surface and the atmosphere. However, its state and variability are poorly understood at spatial scales larger than the fields (i.e. 1 km2) as well as the ability to extrapolate field scale to larger spatial scales. This study investigates soil moisture profiles, their spatial organization, and physical drivers of variability within the Walnut Creek watershed, Iowa, during Soil Moisture Experiment 2005 and relates the watershed scale findings to previous field‐scale results. For all depths, the watershed soil moisture variability was negatively correlated with the watershed mean soil moisture and followed an exponential relationship that was nearly identical to that for field scales. This relationship differed during drying and wetting. While the overall time stability characteristics were improved with observation depth, the relatively wet and dry locations were consistent for all depths. The most time stable locations, capturing the mean soil moisture of the watershed within ± 0·9% volumetric soil moisture, were typically found on hill slopes regardless of vegetation type. These mild slope locations consistently preserve the time stability patterns from field to watershed scales. Soil properties also appear to impact stability but the findings are sensitive to local variations that may not be well defined by existing soil maps.


Earth Systems Research Center

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Hydrological Processes



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© 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.