Soil moisture variability of root zone profiles within SMEX02 remote sensing footprints


Remote sensing of soil moisture effectively provides soil moisture at a large scale, but does not explain highly heterogeneous soil moisture characteristics within remote sensing footprints. In this study, field scale spatio-temporal variability of root zone soil moisture was analyzed. During the Soil Moisture Experiment 2002 (SMEX02), daily soil moisture profiles (i.e., 0–6, 5–11, 15–21, and 25–31 cm) were measured in two fields in Walnut Creek watershed, Ames, Iowa, USA. Theta probe measurements of the volumetric soil moisture profile data were used to analyze statistical moments and time stability and to validate soil moisture predicted by a simple physical model simulation. For all depths, the coefficient of variation of soil moisture is well explained by the mean soil moisture using an exponential relationship. The simple model simulated very similar variability patterns as those observed.

As soil depth increases, soil moisture distributions shift from skewed to normal patterns. At the surface depth, the soil moisture during dry down is log-normally distributed, while the soil moisture is normally distributed after rainfall. At all depths below the surface, the normal distribution captures the soil moisture variability for all conditions. Time stability analyses show that spatial patterns of sampling points are preserved for all depths and that time stability of surface measurements is a good indicator of subsurface time stability. The most time stable sampling sites estimate the field average root zone soil moisture value within ±2.1% volumetric soil moisture.


Earth Systems Research Center

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Advances in Water Resources



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