Uncertainties in Measuring Soil Moisture Content with Actively Heated Fiber-Optic Distributed Temperature Sensing

Robert Wu, Pierrick Lamontagne-Hallé, Jeffrey M. McKenzie
2021 Sensors  
Actively heated fiber-optic distributed temperature sensing (aFO-DTS) measures soil moisture content at sub-meter intervals across kilometres of fiber-optic cable. The technology has great potential for environmental monitoring but calibration at field scales with variable soil conditions is challenging. To better understand and quantify the errors associated with aFO-DTS soil moisture measurements, we use a parametric numerical modeling approach to evaluate different error factors for uniform
more » ... actors for uniform soil. A thermo-hydrogeologic, unsaturated numerical model is used to simulate a 0.01 m by 0.01 m two-dimensional domain, including soil and a fiber-optic cable. Results from the model are compared to soil moisture values calculated using the commonly used Tcum calibration method for aFO-DTS. The model is found to have high accuracy between measured and observed saturations for static hydrologic conditions but shows discrepancies for more realistic settings with active recharge. We evaluate the performance of aFO-DTS soil moisture calculations for various scenarios, including varying recharge duration and heterogeneous soils. The aFO-DTS accuracy decreases as the variability in soil properties and intensity of recharge events increases. Further, we show that the burial of the fiber-optic cable within soil may adversely affect calculated results. The results demonstrate the need for careful selection of calibration data for this emerging method of measuring soil moisture content.
doi:10.3390/s21113723 pmid:34071916 fatcat:aplvr23flfh3hclq36clceoi6q