Comparison of evaporative fluxes from porous surfaces resolved by remotely sensed and in-situ temperature and soil moisture data

Friday, 19 December 2014
Benjamin Wallen, Andrew Trautz and Kathleen M Smits, Center for Experimental Study of Subsurface Environmental Processes (CESEP), Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO, United States
The estimation of evaporation has important implications in modeling climate at the regional and global scale, the hydrological cycle and estimating environmental stress on agricultural systems. In field and laboratory studies, remote sensing and in-situ techniques are used to collect thermal and soil moisture data of the soil surface and subsurface which is then used to estimate evaporative fluxes, oftentimes using the sensible heat balance method. Nonetheless, few studies exist that compare the methods due to limited data availability and the complexity of many of the techniques, making it difficult to understand flux estimates. This work compares different methods used to quantify evaporative flux based on remotely sensed and in-situ temperature and soil moisture data. A series of four laboratory experiments were performed under ambient and elevated air temperature conditions with homogeneous and heterogeneous soil configurations in a small two-dimensional soil tank interfaced with a small wind tunnel apparatus. The soil tank and wind tunnel were outfitted with a suite of sensors that measured soil temperature (surface and subsurface), air temperature, soil moisture, and tank weight. Air and soil temperature measurements were obtained using infrared thermography, heat pulse sensors and thermistors. Spatial and temporal thermal data were numerically inverted to obtain the evaporative flux. These values were then compared with rates of mass loss from direct weighing of the samples. Results demonstrate the applicability of different methods under different surface boundary conditions; no one method was deemed most applicable under every condition. Infrared thermography combined with the sensible heat balance method was best able to determine evaporative fluxes under stage 1 conditions while distributed temperature sensing combined with the sensible heat balance method best determined stage 2 evaporation. The approaches that appear most promising for determining the surface energy balance incorporates soil moisture rate of change over time and atmospheric conditions immediately above the soil surface. An understanding of the fidelity regarding predicted evaporation rates based upon stages of evaporation enables a more deliberate selection of the suite of sensors required for data collection.