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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2020-24
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2020-24
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 28 Jan 2020

Submitted as: research article | 28 Jan 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Soil Moisture Sensor Network Design for Hydrological Applications

Lu Zhuo1,2, Qiang Dai2,3, Binru Zhao4, and Dawei Han5 Lu Zhuo et al.
  • 1Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
  • 2Key Laboratory of VGE of Ministry of Education, Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing, China
  • 3Jiangsu Center for Collaborative Innovation in Geographical Information Resource Development and Application, Nanjing, China
  • 4College of Water Conservancy and Hydropower Engineering, Hohai University, Nanjing, China
  • 5WEMRC, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

Abstract. Soil moisture plays an important role in the partitioning of rainfall into evapotranspiration, infiltration and runoff, hence a vital state variable in the hydrological modelling. However, due to the heterogeneity of soil moisture in space most existing in-situ observation networks rarely provide sufficient coverage to capture the catchment-scale soil moisture variations. Clearly, there is a need to develop a systematic approach for soil moisture network design, so that with the minimal number of sensors the catchment spatial soil moisture information could be captured accurately. In this study, a simple and low-data requirement method is proposed. It is based on the Principal Component Analysis (PCA) and Elbow curve for the determination of the optimal number of soil moisture sensors; and K-means Cluster Analysis (CA) and a selection of statistical criteria for the identification of the sensor placements. Furthermore, the long-term (10-year) soil moisture datasets estimated through the advanced Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model are used as the network design inputs. In the case of the Emilia Romagna catchment, the results show the proposed network is very efficient in estimating the catchment-scale soil moisture (i.e., with NSE and r at 0.995 and 0.999, respectively for the areal mean estimation; and 0.973 and 0.990, respectively for the areal standard deviation estimation). To retain 90 % variance, a total of 50 sensors in a 22,124 km2 catchment is needed, which in comparison with the original number of WRF grids (828 grids), the designed network requires significantly fewer sensors. However, refinements and investigations are needed to further improve the design scheme which are also discussed in the paper.

Lu Zhuo et al.

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Short summary
Soil moisture plays an important role in hydrological modelling. However, most existing in-situ observation networks rarely provide sufficient coverage to capture soil moisture variations. Clearly, there is a need to develop a systematic approach, so that with the minimal number of sensors the soil moisture information could be captured accurately. In this study, a simple and low-data requirement method is proposed, which can provide very efficient soil moisture estimations.
Soil moisture plays an important role in hydrological modelling. However, most existing in-situ...
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