Monitoring soil water and snow water equivalent with the cosmic-ray soil moisture probe at heterogeneous sites
Soil water content (SWC) measurements are crucial worldwide for hydrological predictions, agricultural activities, and monitoring the progress of reclamation on disturbed land from industrial activities. In colder climates, snow water equivalent (SWE) measurements are equally important, and directly contribute to improved spring water supply forecasting. Both these variables, SWC and SWE, are commonly measured with either point-scale (e.g. soil cores for SWC and snow tubes for SWE) or large-scale (remote sensing) methods. The cosmic-ray soil moisture probe (CRP) was recently developed to fill this gap between small- and large-scale measurements. The CRP provides an average SWC reading in a landscape-scale measurement footprint (300 m radius) by taking advantage of the relationship between aboveground neutrons and soil water. Although the CRP has proved accurate in relatively homogenous sites, it has not been validated at highly heterogeneous sites. Since snow is simply frozen water, the CRP also has the potential for monitoring SWE at the landscape-scale. However, no calibration has been developed for measuring SWE with the CRP. This thesis aimed to further validate the use of a CRP for measuring SWC at a highly heterogeneous site, and calibrate a CRP for monitoring landscape-scale SWE at an agriculture field. The heterogeneous site used to validate the CRP for SWC measurement was an oil sand reclamation site made up of multiple test plots of varying soil layer treatments. Despite the clear differences in soil texture at the site, the CRP-monitored SWC compared accurately to sampled soil water content and a network of soil moisture probes. With the use of modeling, it was also possible to downscale the CRP measurement to the plot scale. For calibrating the CRP for monitoring SWE, an empirical calibration function was developed based on the relationship between the CRP-measured neutrons and SWE from snow surveys with snow tubes. Using the calibration equation, CRP-estimated SWE closely matched SWE measured from snow surveys. Differences were attributed to mid winter and spring melting of the snowpack along with varying soil water content in the top of the soil profile. This research demonstrates the usefulness of the CRP for monitoring SWC at unique sites and its ability to monitor SWE at the landscape-scale.
DegreeMaster of Science (M.Sc.)
SupervisorSi, Bing C.
CommitteePeak, Derek; Ireson, Andrew; Yarmuch, Marty
Copyright DateJanuary 2016
snow water equivalent