Abstract

Soil ice content is an important component for winter soil hydrology. The sensible heat balance (SHB) method using measurements from heat pulse probes (HPPs) is a possible way to determine transient soil ice content. In a previous study, in situ soil ice content estimates with the SHB method were inaccurate, due to thermal conductivity errors and the use of relatively long time steps for calculations. The objective of this study is to reexamine the SHB method for soil ice content determination. A soil freezing and thawing laboratory experiment was performed with soil columns and heat exchangers. Transient soil ice contents in the soil columns during soil freezing and thawing were determined with the SHB method. The SHB method was able to determine dynamic changes in soil ice contents during initial freezing and final thawing for soil temperatures between −5 and 0°C when latent heat values associated with ice formation or with thawing were relatively large. During an extended freezing period, when soil temperatures were below −5°C, the small associated latent heat fluxes were below the sensitivity of the SHB method, and the SHB method did not provide accurate estimates of ice contents with time. However, the soil ice contents during the extended freezing period could be estimated well from changes in volumetric heat capacity (C) determined with HPP. Thus, combining the SHB method for initial freezing and final thawing, with a change in C method for extended freezing periods, allowed determination of dynamic soil ice contents for the entire range of freezing and thawing soil temperatures investigated. HPPs were able to measure soil ice contents.

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