Systematic errors in ground heat flux estimation and their correction

P. Gentine, D. Entekhabi, B.G. Heusinkveld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Incoming radiation forcing at the land surface is partitioned among the components of the surface energy balance in varying proportions depending on the time scale of the forcing. Based on a land-atmosphere analytic continuum model, a numerical land-surface model and field observations we show that high-frequency fluctuations in incoming radiation (with period less than 6 hours, for example due to intermittent clouds) are preferentially partitioned towards ground heat flux. These higher frequencies are concentrated in the 0-1 centimeter surface soil layer. Subsequently, measurements even at a few centimeters deep in the soil profile miss part of the surface soil heat flux signal. The attenuation of the high-frequency soil heat flux spectrum throughout the soil profile leads to systematic errors in both measurements and modeling, which require a very fine sampling near the soil surface (0-1 centimeter). Calorimetric measurement techniques introduce a systematic error in the form of artificial band-pass filter if the temperature probes are not placed at appropriate depths. In addition the temporal calculation of the change in the heat storage term of the calorimetric method can further distort the reconstruction of the surface soil heat flux signal. A correction methodology is introduced which provides practical application as well as insights into the estimation of surface soil heat flux and the closure of surface energy balance based on field measurements.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberW09541
Number of pages15
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • large-aperture scintillometer
  • apparent thermal-diffusivity
  • energy-balance closure
  • soil-temperature
  • net-radiation
  • land-surface
  • exchanges
  • forest

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