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Development of a Method to Downscale Soil Moisture Estimates Based on Topography and Other Site Characteristics

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Technical Report,01 Sep 2011,31 Aug 2015

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Colorado State University - Ft. Collins Fort Collins United States

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Spatial patterns and dynamics of soil moisture are key factors in the hydrologic behavior of watersheds, and they affect many Army activities including movement of troops in combat and sustainable management of training lands. Yet soil moisture cannot be measured directly at the spatial resolutions and extents that are required for these applications e.g., 10-100 m grid cells. However, soil moisture is known to depend on topographic attributes and elevation data are widely available at these resolutions. The dependence of soil moisture on topography is complex because it can vary between different regions and between different times in the same region. The objective of this project was to develop and test a downscaling method that estimates high resolution soil moisture patterns based on their dependence on topography and other site characteristics such as soil and vegetation properties if available. This downscaling method overcomes the complex dependence with a simple model that describes the varying influences of the hydrologic processes that determine soil moisture patterns. The method was generalized to be more physically-realistic and broadly-applicable and to better account for the role of vegetation. In addition, it was tested by analyzing underlying assumptions and by comparing against observed soil moisture patterns.

Subject Categories:

  • Soil Mechanics
  • Geography
  • Hydrology, Limnology and Potamology

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