Measuring soil moisture content non-invasively at intermediate spatial scale using cosmic-ray neutrons

Marek G Zreda, Darin Desilets, Paul A Ferre, Russell L. Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

215 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Soil moisture content on a horizontal scale of hectometers and at depths of decimeters can be inferred from measurements of low-energy cosmic-ray neutrons that are generated within soil, moderated mainly by hydrogen atoms, and diffused back to the atmosphere. These neutrons are sensitive to water content changes, but largely insensitive to variations in soil chemistry, and their intensity above the surface is inversely correlated with hydrogen content of the soil. The measurement with a portable neutron detector placed a few meters above the ground takes minutes to hours, permitting high-resolution, long-term monitoring of undisturbed soil moisture conditions. The large footprint makes the method suitable for weather and short-term climate forecast initialization and for calibration of satellite sensors, and the measurement depth makes the probe ideal for studies of plant/soil interaction and atmosphere/soil exchange.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL21402
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Volume35
Issue number21
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 16 2008

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soil moisture
cosmic ray
moisture content
cosmic rays
soils
neutrons
soil
hydrogen
soil chemistry
atmosphere
satellite sensor
depth measurement
atmospheres
footprint
neutron counters
footprints
weather
forecasting
water content
probe

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)
  • Geophysics

Cite this

Measuring soil moisture content non-invasively at intermediate spatial scale using cosmic-ray neutrons. / Zreda, Marek G; Desilets, Darin; Ferre, Paul A; Scott, Russell L.

In: Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 35, No. 21, L21402, 16.11.2008.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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