Hydrology, drought, soil moisture

CALMIT Research Hydrology, soil moisture, and evapotranspiration

Dr. Trenton Franz studies endangered riparian vegetation at Mapungubwe National Park in South Africa

Research questions:

How can Earth observations improve our understanding of drought and the underlying hydrologic components related to this climatic extreme?

  • The suite of new satellite observations and tools that have emerged over the past decade allow evapotranspiration, precipitation, soil moisture, and vegetation health to be analyzed and monitored, providing a more comprehensive view of drought conditions.

What is the role and response of climate-vegetation-water interactions across the landscape to changing environment conditions and how does it affect agricultural and natural resource sustainability?

  • Drought is a complex, multi-faceted natural hazard. An effective response requires many types of information collected at various spatial and temporal scales. Satellite remote sensing can fill in the information gaps of traditional field observations, providing a more complete view of drought dynamics.

CALMIT researchers monitor and model the flow of water through natural and human-dominated landscapes to understand ecosystem function and to improve water use efficiency in food production. Our research is highly interdisciplinary, combining ecology, hydrology, agronomy, and geophysics.

CALMIT Hydrology/Drought/Soil Moisture Research Projects

Advancing the Cosmic-ray Neutron Method for Real-time Mobile Soil Moisture Mapping

cosmic ray probe

Image: A fixed cosmic ray sensor in an agricultural field site.

The long-term goal of this project is to develop the cosmic-ray neutron method for real-time mobile soil moisture mapping capabilities and to advance our understanding of the petrophysical transform, which converts the measured property (the intensity of low-energy neutrons) into the variable of interest (the area-average soil moisture). This research will also assess the potential of using remote sensing products to estimate the required local ancillary information for the petrophysical transform as opposed to the current practice of local direct sampling.

Investigators: Trenton Franz (University of Nebraska-Lincoln), Hydroinnova LLC, and Quaesta Instruments
Funding: DOD CRREL ($50,000, 2014-2015)

Pastoralism in Transition: Linking Localized Interactions and System Behaviors to Evaluate Social-Ecological Vulnerability

Pastoralism in Transition
Image: Emerging patterns of vulnerability in two pastoralist communities in Kenya

Drylands cover 40% of the continent of Africa, and are the basis for traditional pastoralist social ecological systems, in which societies have adapted to rely heavily or entirely on livestock production for their livelihoods in harsh and variable environments. Modernity has brought drastic political, social and land use changes, as well as unprecedented population growth, land degradation and more frequent droughts that decimate herds. Here the project team will employ complex adaptive system approaches to evaluate emerging patterns of vulnerability in two pastoralist communities in Kenya which have begun to diversify into maize agriculture alongside their struggling livestock-based livelihood system. We will adopt approaches to investigate how mixed land use affects the sensitivity of range productivity to drought and shifting grazing pressures; how composition and inequities in household livestock assets create differential patterns of risk exposure associated with entry into agriculture; and how evolving land use institutions affect the coping capacity and resilience at individual and collective scales.

Investigators: Elizabeth King (UGA) and Laura German (UGA) (Franz consultant from University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

Funding: NSF Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems ($249,000, 2013-2015)

Transcending heterogeneity: towards improved soil moisture scaling laws

1-km QuickDRI map showing the intense short-term drought conditions across much of the United States as the severe to extreme 2012 drought event emerged.
Image: Emerging patterns of vulnerability in two pastoralist communities in Kenya

Drylands cover 40% of the continent of Africa, and are the basis for traditional pastoralist social ecological systems, in which societies have adapted to rely heavily or entirely on livestock production for their livelihoods in harsh and variable environments. Modernity has brought drastic political, social and land use changes, as well as unprecedented population growth, land degradation and more frequent droughts that decimate herds. Here the project team will employ complex adaptive system approaches to evaluate emerging patterns of vulnerability in two pastoralist communities in Kenya which have begun to diversify into maize agriculture alongside their struggling livestock-based livelihood system. We will adopt approaches to investigate how mixed land use affects the sensitivity of range productivity to drought and shifting grazing pressures; how composition and inequities in household livestock assets create differential patterns of risk exposure associated with entry into agriculture; and how evolving land use institutions affect the coping capacity and resilience at individual and collective scales.

Investigators: Elizabeth King (UGA) and Laura German (UGA) (Franz consultant from University of Nebraska-Lincoln)
Funding: NSF Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems ($249,000, 2013-2015)

Relevant Publications

Soil moisture scaling:

  • Franz, T. E., Wang, T. J., Avery, W., Finkenbiner, C., & Brocca, L. (2015). Combined analysis of soil moisture measurements from roving and fixed cosmic ray neutron probes for multiscale real-time monitoring. Geophysical Research Letters, 42(9), 3389-3396.

Recharge estimates across the state using soil moisture monitoring networks:

  • Wang, T. J., Franz, T. E., Yue, W. F., Szilagyi, J., Zlotnik, V. A., You, J. S., et al. (2016). Feasibility analysis of using inverse modeling for estimating natural groundwater recharge from a large-scale soil moisture monitoring network. Journal of Hydrology, 533, 250-265.

Irrigation scheduling routines in Western Nebraska and the effect of different technologies for reducing groundwater pumping:

  • Gibson, J., Franz, T., Wang, T., & Eisenhauer, D. (2017). A case study of field-scale maize irrigation patterns in Western Nebraska: Implications to water managers and recommendations for hyper-resolution land surface modelling. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences Discussions, in press.

CALMIT Partners for Hydrology, Drought, Soil Moisture Research
Federal

USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center - https://eros.usgs.gov/usa

USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Hydrological Remote Sensing Lab (HRSL) - https://www.ars.usda.gov/northeast-area/beltsville-md/beltsville-agricultural-research-center/hydrology-and-remote-sensing-laboratory/

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) Hydrological Science Laboratory - https://neptune.gsfc.nasa.gov/hsb/

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Terrestrial Hydrology Group - https://science.jpl.nasa.gov/EarthScience/SurfaceHydrology/index.cfm

NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) Short-term Prediction Research and Transition Center (SPORT) - https://weather.msfc.nasa.gov/sport/staff/

NOAA National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) - https://www.drought.gov/drought/

University

National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC), University of Nebraska-Lincoln – http://drought.unl.edu/

Daugherty Water for Food Institute (DWFI), University of Nebraska - http://waterforfood.nebraska.edu/

University of Maryland-College Park; Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center (ESSIC) - http://essic.umd.edu/joom2/

University of California-Santa Barbara (UCSB); Climate Hazards Group (CHG) - http://chg.geog.ucsb.edu/

University of Nevada-Reno; Laboratory for Conservation Biogeography -http://wolfweb.unr.edu/~talbright/LCB/index.html

University of Wisconsin-Madison; Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies - http://www.ssec.wisc.edu/~jasono/index.html

University of Wisconsin-Madison; Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies - http://www.ssec.wisc.edu/~jasono/index.html

John Hopkins University Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences - http://eps.jhu.edu/

University of Alabama-Huntsville; National Space Science and Technology Center (NSSTC) - http://www.nsstc.uah.edu/nsstc/

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