Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Southwest Watershed Research

Title: Coupling diffusion and maximum entropy models to estimate thermal inertia)

item Nearing, G.
item Moran, Mary - Susan
item Scott, Russell - Russ

Submitted to: Remote Sensing of Environment
Publication Type: Peer reviewed journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/17/2011
Publication Date: 3/29/2012
Citation: Nearing, G., Moran, M.S., Scott, R.L. 2012. Coupling diffusion and maximum entropy models to estimate thermal inertia. Remote Sensing of Environment. 119:222-231.

Interpretive Summary: Information about the amount of water in the soil available for plant growth is important for day-to-day decisions made by crop producers and natural resource managers. In this study, we developed an approach for mapping soil moisture over large areas with satellite measurements of surface temperature and available data from weather stations. The approach is operational and provides most accurate estimates of soil moisture in wet soil conditions.

Technical Abstract: Thermal inertia is a physical property of soil at the land surface related to water content. We have developed a method for estimating soil thermal inertia using two daily measurements of surface temperature, to capture the diurnal range, and diurnal time series of net radiation and specific humidity. The method solves for soil thermal inertia assuming homogeneous 1-D diffusion of heat near the land surface. The solution uses a boundary condition taken as the maximum likelihood estimate of ground heat flux made by a probabilistic uncertainty model of the partitioning of net radiation based on the theory of maximum entropy production (MEP model). We showed that by coupling the 1-D diffusion and MEP models of energy transfer at the land surface, the number of free parameters in the MEP model can be reduced from two (P – soil thermal inertia and I – thermal inertia of convective heat transfer to the atmosphere) to one (P is defined by I). A sensitivity analysis suggested that, for the purpose of estimating thermal inertia, the coupled model should be parameterized by the ratio P/I. The coupled model was demonstrated at two semi-arid sites in the southwest United States and we found 1) parameterizing the MEP model with a constant annual P/I value resulted in surface flux estimates which were similar to those made when daily P and I parameters were derived directly from measurements of ground heat flux (r2 > 0.95); 2) estimates of P made using the coupled model were superior to those made using the diffusion model with a common linear approximation of the ground heat flux boundary condition; and 3) thermal inertia was a better predictor of soil moisture in wet conditions than dry conditions due to a lack of sensitivity of thermal inertia to changes in soil moisture at low moisture contents.

Last Modified: 8/24/2016
Footer Content Back to Top of Page