High-resolution modeling of the spatial heterogeneity of soil moisture: Applications in network design

Nathaniel W. Chaney, Joshua K. Roundy, Julio E. Herrera-Estrada, Eric F. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


The spatial heterogeneity of soil moisture remains a persistent challenge in the design of in situ measurement networks, spatial downscaling of coarse estimates (e.g., satellite retrievals), and hydrologic modeling. To address this challenge, we analyze high-resolution (∼9 m) simulated soil moisture fields over the Little River Experimental Watershed (LREW) in Georgia, USA, to assess the role and interaction of the spatial heterogeneity controls of soil moisture. We calibrate and validate the TOPLATS distributed hydrologic model with high to moderate resolution land and meteorological data sets to provide daily soil moisture fields between 2004 and 2008. The results suggest that topography and soils are the main drivers of spatial heterogeneity over the LREW. We use this analysis to introduce a novel network design method that uses land data sets as proxies of the main drivers of local heterogeneity (topography, land cover, and soil properties) to define unique and representative hydrologic similar units (subsurface, surface, and vegetation) for probe placement. The calibration of the hydrologic model and network design method illustrates how the use of hydrologic similar units in hydrologic modeling could minimize computation and guide efforts toward improved macroscale land surface modeling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)619-638
Number of pages20
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology


  • land surface modeling
  • network design
  • soil moisture
  • topography


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