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Urban soil - atmosphere interface


The unique challenge of research at the soil-atmosphere interface in urban areas is related to the high heterogeneity in urban surfaces. These surfaces are composed of varying mixes of permeable and impermeable materials, and therefore require a flexible research approach. These different surfaces have different effects on the transport of heat and water above and below the respective surface types. From above, these effects can be measured through the consideration of the surface energy balance, which takes into account the fluxes of energy between the surface and the atmosphere. From below, these effects can be described in terms of the coupled movement of heat and water between the respective surface and the soil medium. The following two research projects focused on this common topic incorporate methods from both approaches: Project N2 – Heat and vapor transport at the soil-atmosphere interface; and Project T1 – Water and heat transport at the soil-atmosphere interface.

This research is being carried out at a field site where two weighing lysimeters have been prepared with different sealing materials. In addition, two grass lysimeters are being used for reference evapotranspiration measurements. Moisture and temperature probes have been installed in the two partially sealed lysimeters in order to construct moisture and temperature profiles. Additionally, thermal and multispectral cameras collect surface temperature and imagery from different heights. A further stage of research will involve the application of information gathered at the lysimeters to a larger field-scale site.

While both research projects are focusing on heat and water transport, research Project T1 will focus on understanding the hydrological processes for urban soils and partially sealed surfaces using the lysimeters with the aim to predict evaporation using only meteorological data and surface properties. In comparison, research Project N2 will focus on energy fluxes with the help of remote sensing and meteorological-based methods. It will also consider the relation between scale of measurement and model performance, through the use of different measurement platforms (3 – 9 meter tripod and an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)) and potentially through satellite data. The first results will serve to assess the surface temperature dynamics of partially sealed surfaces, and future efforts will focus on the application of surface energy balance models for the estimation of evapotranspiration from such surfaces.

Involved students

Kyle Pipkins
Anne Timm (corresponding doctoral student)

Studied interfaces



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