Determining soil moisture and sediment availability at White Sands Dune Field,...

Scheidt, S., M. Ramsey, and N. Lancaster (2010), Determining soil moisture and sediment availability at White Sands Dune Field, New Mexico, from apparent thermal inertia data, J. Geophys. Res., 115, F02019, doi:10.1029/2009JF001378.
Abstract: 

Determinations of soil moisture and sediment availability in arid regions are important indicators of local climate variability and the potential for future dust storm events. Data from the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection (ASTER) radiometer were used to derive the relationships among potential soil erosion, soil moisture, and thermal inertia (TI) at the spatial scale of aeolian landforms for the White Sands Dune Field between May 2000 and March 2008. Land surface apparent thermal inertia (ATI) data were used to derive an approximation of actual TI in order to estimate the wind threshold velocity ratio (WTR). The WTR is a ratio of the wind velocity thresholds at which soil erosion occurs for wet soil versus dry soil. The ASTER‐derived soil moisture retrievals and the changes through time at White Sands were interpreted to be driven primarily by precipitation, but the presence of a perched groundwater table may also influence certain areas. The sediment availability of dunes, active playa surfaces and the margin of the alluvial fans to the west were determined to be consistently higher than the surrounding area. The sediment availability can be primarily explained by precipitation events and the number of dry days prior to the data acquisition. Other factors such as vegetation and the amount of surface crusting may also influence soil mobility, but these were not measured in the field. This approach showed the highest modeled sediment availability values just days prior to the largest dust emission event at White Sands in decades. Such an approach could be extended to a global monitoring technique for arid land systems that are prone to dust storms and for other regional land surface studies in the Sahara.

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Research Program: 
Earth Surface & Interior Program (ESI)
Mission: 
Terra-ASTER