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Emerging methods for noninvasive sensing of soil moisture dynamics from field to catchment scale: a review

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Soil moisture is an important state variable in the terrestrial system because it controls the exchange of water and energy between the land surface and the atmosphere. In this study, we review recent advances in noninvasive techniques that allow continuous noninvasive and contactless measurements of soil moisture dynamics at the field to basin scale. In particular, we report on (1) cosmic‐ray neutron probes, (2) Global Navigation Satellite System reflectometry, (3) ground‐based microwave radiometry, (4) gamma‐ray monitoring, (5) terrestrial gravimetry, and (6) low‐frequency electromagnetic surface waves. Each method is described in terms of its basic principle, measurement scales, calibration issues, measurement accuracy, and applications. We hope that this review will further stimulate the community to invest in the continued development of novel soil moisture sensing methods that address the need for large‐scale soil water content measurements with sufficiently high temporal resolution. WIREs Water 2015, 2:635–647. doi: 10.1002/wat2.1097 This article is categorized under: Science of Water > Hydrological Processes Science of Water > Water and Environmental Change
Schematic drawing showing that the emission of fast neutron (red dots) from the soil is controlled by soil water content (lower fast neutron intensity in the lower atmosphere in case of higher hydrogen contents in the soil and vice versa).
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Schematic diagram showing the trade‐off of the spatial scale (‘support’ in terms of single sensors and ‘extent’ in terms of networks) and the temporal resolution of existing soil moisture instruments and the potential of the emerging soil moisture sensing techniques discussed in this review. GNSS, Global Navigation Satellite Systems; CRNP, cosmic‐ray neutron probe; LFEMW, low‐frequency electromagnetic surface waves.
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Schematic showing simplified low frequency surface radio wave propagation.
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Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) reflectometry consists of receiving the direct and the reflected GNSS signal by the GNSS antenna. When the satellite is approaching the horizon, the signal is reflected at a larger distance to the GNSS antenna.
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