Quantifying nonisothermal subsurface soil water evaporation

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Deol, Pukhraj
Heitman, Josh
Amoozegar, Aziz
Ren, Tusheng
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Horton, Robert
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The Department of Agronomy seeks to teach the study of the farm-field, its crops, and its science and management. It originally consisted of three sub-departments to do this: Soils, Farm-Crops, and Agricultural Engineering (which became its own department in 1907). Today, the department teaches crop sciences and breeding, soil sciences, meteorology, agroecology, and biotechnology.

The Department of Agronomy was formed in 1902. From 1917 to 1935 it was known as the Department of Farm Crops and Soils.

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  • Department of Farm Crops and Soils (1917–1935)

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Accurate quantification of energy and mass transfer during soil water evaporation is critical for improving understanding of the hydrologic cycle and for many environmental, agricultural, and engineering applications. Drying of soil under radiation boundary conditions results in formation of a dry surface layer (DSL), which is accompanied by a shift in the position of the latent heat sink from the surface to the subsurface. Detailed investigation of evaporative dynamics within this active near-surface zone has mostly been limited to modeling, with few measurements available to test models. Soil column studies were conducted to quantify nonisothermal subsurface evaporation profiles using a sensible heat balance (SHB) approach. Eleven-needle heat pulse probes were used to measure soil temperature and thermal property distributions at the millimeter scale in the near-surface soil. Depth-integrated SHB evaporation rates were compared with mass balance evaporation estimates under controlled laboratory conditions. The results show that the SHB method effectively measured total subsurface evaporation rates with only 0.01–0.03 mm h−1difference from mass balance estimates. The SHB approach also quantified millimeter-scale nonisothermal subsurface evaporation profiles over a drying event, which has not been previously possible. Thickness of the DSL was also examined using measured soil thermal conductivity distributions near the drying surface. Estimates of the DSL thickness were consistent with observed evaporation profile distributions from SHB. Estimated thickness of the DSL was further used to compute diffusive vapor flux. The diffusive vapor flux also closely matched both mass balance evaporation rates and subsurface evaporation rates estimated from SHB.


This article is published as Deol, Pukhraj, Josh Heitman, Aziz Amoozegar, Tusheng Ren, and Robert Horton. "Quantifying nonisothermal subsurface soil water evaporation." Water Resources Research 48, no. 11 (2012). doi: 10.1029/2012WR012516. Posted with permission.

Sun Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2012