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

  11 May 2020

11 May 2020

Review status
A revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

The challenges of an in situ validation of a non-equilibrium model of soil heat and moisture dynamics during fires

William J. Massman William J. Massman
  • USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, 240 West Prospect Road, Fort Collins, CO 80526 USA

Abstract. With the increasing frequency and severity of fire there is an increasing desire to better manage fuels and minimize, as much as possible, the impacts of fire on soils and other natural resources. Piling and/or burning slash is one method of managing fuels and reducing the risk and consequences of wildfire, but the repercussions to the soil, although very localized, can be significant and often irreversible. In an effort to provide a tool to better understand the impact of fire on soils, this study outlines the improvements to and the in-situ validation of a non-equilibrium model for simulating the coupled interactions and transport of heat, moisture and water vapor during fires. Improvements to the model eliminate two important (but heretofore universally overlooked) inconsistencies: one that describes the relationship between evaporation and condensation in the parameterization of the non-equilibrium vapor source term and the other, is the incorrect use of the apparent thermal conductivity in the soil heat flow equation. The first of these enhanced the stability and performance of the model. The second is an important improvement in the model's physical realism, but had less of an impact on the model's performance and stability than the first. The model validation uses (in-situ temperature, soil moisture, and heat flux) data obtained in a 2004 experimental slash pile burn. Important temperature dependent corrections to the instruments used for measuring soil heat flux and moisture are also discussed and assessed. Despite any possible ambiguities in the calibration the sensors or the simplicity of the parameterization of the surface heating function, the difficulties and complexities of formulating the upper boundary condition, and the obvious complexities of the dynamic response of the soil's temperature and heat flux, the model produced at least a very credible, if not surprisingly good, simulation of the observed data. This study then continues with a discussion and sensitivity analysis of some important feedbacks (some of which are well known and others that are more hypothetical) that are not included in the present (or any extant) model, but undoubtedly are dynamically influencing the physical properties of the soil in-situ during the fire and thereby modulating the behavior of the soil temperature and moisture. This manuscript concludes with a list of possible future observational and modeling studies and how they would advance the research and findings discussed here.

William J. Massman

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William J. Massman

William J. Massman


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