The effect of various soil hydraulic property estimates on soil moisture simulations

Molly M. Gribb, Irina Forkutsa, Aleshia Hansen, David G. Chandler, James P. McNamara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Models of water movement in unsaturated soils require accurate representations of the soil moisture retention and hydraulic conductivity curves; however, commonly used laboratory methods and pedotransfer functions (PTFs) are rarely verifi ed against fi eld conditions. In this study, we investigated the eff ects of using soil hydraulic property informa tion obtained from diff erent measurement and estimation techniques on one-dimensional model predictions of soil moisture content. Pairs of time domain refl ectometry waveguides and tensiometers were installed at two depths in the side of a soil pit face to obtain in situ measurements. Undisturbed soil samples were taken near the instruments and subjected to particle size analysis, multistep outilow (MSO), and falling-head permeability tests to obtain estimates of the soil moisture retention curves. Three scaling methods were then applied to improve the fi t of the various estimates to the fi eld data. We found that soil hydraulic property estimates obtained from inverse methods lead to the best simulations of soil moisture dynamics, and that laboratory MSO tests or commonly used PTFs perform poorly. These laboratory and PTF estimates can be dramatically improved, however, by simply constraining the range of possible moisture contents to the minimum and maximum measured in the fi eld. It appears that this method of scaling PTF results can be used to obtain soil hydraulic property inputs of suffi cient accuracy for plot-scale modeling eff orts without requiring expensive laboratory or in situ tests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)321-331
Number of pages11
JournalVadose Zone Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science


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