Abstract

The dual-probe heat-pulse (DPHP) method provides a means of estimating volumetric soil water content (θ) and change in volumetric water content (Δθ) from measurements of volumetric heat capacity. The purpose of this investigation was to characterize the accuracy and precision that can be achieved in measuring θ and Δθ with the DPHP method. Tempe pressure cells fitted with DPHP sensors were used to conduct desorption experiments in which DPHP-based estimates of θ and Δθ were compared with values estimated by the gravimetric method. For water contents corresponding to soil water pressure potentials below −100 kPa, comparisons were made by packing the pressure cells with soil wetted to known water contents. The investigation was conducted with seven soil materials representing a wide range of physical properties for mineral soils. The DPHP sensors slightly overestimated θ at low water contents, but it was shown that the bias could be removed by using an empirical calibration equation, θ = 1.09 θDPHP − 0.045. This relationship appears to be general inasmuch as it was shown to be applicable for all seven soil materials and for water contents ranging from 0.02 to 0.59 m3 m−3. The general calibration equation was also shown to be effective in removing bias in Δθ estimates. Pooled regression analysis (all soil materials) showed that θ can be measured with a root mean square error (RMSE) of 0.022 m3 m−3. Greater precision can be achieved with Δθ measurements (RMSE = 0.012 m3 m−3); however, the results indicated a decrease in precision with increasing magnitude of Δθ.

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