Articles | Volume 16, issue 7
Research article
03 Jul 2012
Research article |  | 03 Jul 2012

Shallow groundwater effect on land surface temperature and surface energy balance under bare soil conditions: modeling and description

F. Alkhaier, G. N. Flerchinger, and Z. Su

Abstract. Understanding when and how groundwater affects surface temperature and energy fluxes is significant for utilizing remote sensing in groundwater studies and for integrating aquifers within land surface models. To investigate the shallow groundwater effect under bare soil conditions, we numerically exposed two soil profiles to identical metrological forcing. One of the profiles had shallow groundwater. The different responses that the two profiles manifested were inspected regarding soil moisture, temperature and energy balance at the land surface. The findings showed that the two profiles differed in three aspects: the absorbed and emitted amounts of energy, the portioning out of the available energy and the heat fluency in the soil. We concluded that due to their lower albedo, shallow groundwater areas reflect less shortwave radiation and consequently get a higher magnitude of net radiation. When potential evaporation demand is sufficiently high, a large portion of the energy received by these areas is consumed for evaporation. This increases the latent heat flux and reduces the energy that could have heated the soil. Consequently, lower magnitudes of both sensible and ground heat fluxes are caused to occur. The higher soil thermal conductivity in shallow groundwater areas facilitates heat transfer between the top soil and the subsurface, i.e. soil subsurface is more thermally connected to the atmosphere. For the reliability of remote sensors in detecting shallow groundwater effect, it was concluded that this effect can be sufficiently clear to be detected if at least one of the following conditions occurs: high potential evaporation and high contrast between day and night temperatures. Under these conditions, most day and night hours are suitable for shallow groundwater depth detection.