Applying thermal infrared imaging to calculate spatial and temporal evaporation rates at the Landscape Evolution Observatory

Brianna Rupkalvis and Peter Troch

Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences
The University of Arizona

Since the 1970’s, scientists have seen the potential for thermal infrared imaging to deduce soil moisture and soil evaporation. Progress in remote sensing and satellite development has applied this theory into site specific soil moisture projects, including application through the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER). Global projects, like the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP), rely on microwave wavelengths to measure water content in the top 5cm of soil. Currently, only aerial and satellite imagery provides a 2m to 1km resolution over their kilometer swaths, which vary in topography, land type, vegetation, and geology.

The Biosphere 2, and more specifically the Landscape Evolution Observatory, offers a unique opportunity to study thermal imagery over a 0.7cm fine resolution on a homogeneous, zero order drainage basin. An ICI 9640P infrared camera will acquire 4.6m x 3.4m spectral images from 7µm - 14µm wavelengths of this bare soil hillslope. From these spectral images, spatial and temporal surface temperature variations can determine surface variations in soil moisture content and evaporation rates. This future research would provide comparison between remote sensing images and in-situ measurements, and further our understanding of the surface water budget.

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