Articles | Volume 13, issue 9
30 Sep 2009
 | 30 Sep 2009

A qualitative description of shallow groundwater effect on surface temperature of bare soil

F. Alkhaier, R. J. Schotting, and Z. Su

Abstract. Whether or not shallow groundwater affects skin temperature (the temperature of soil surface) is important to detect depth and extent of shallow groundwater by dint of remote sensing and important for land surface modelling studies. Although few studies have been conducted to investigate that effect, they have yielded contradicting conclusions and they stopped in 1982. To determine that shallow groundwater affects skin temperature, we measured soil temperature at two different depths (5 and 10 cm) in seven places with variable water table depths every ten minutes and for six days. After that, we correlated the minimum, maximum and average daily temperatures to average groundwater depth. We also built a simple numerical model using a differential equations solver, Flex PDE, to simulate heat transfer into soil profile and used it to simulate groundwater effect on skin temperature. We found quite high negative correlation between the maximum and average daily soil temperature and groundwater depth. Contrarily, we could hardly find any correlation between the daily minimum temperature and groundwater depth. Numerical simulations, though simple, were useful in showing that groundwater shifted skin temperature curves up in the winter and down in the summer without affecting the shape of the curve. We conclude that shallow groundwater affects skin temperature directly by its distinctive thermal properties in the soil profile and indirectly by affecting soil moisture which in turn has many different and contradictory effects on skin temperature. This study recommends building a comprehensive numerical model that simulates the effect of shallow groundwater on skin temperature and on the different energy fluxes at land surface.