Articles | Volume 2, issue 4
Original research article
09 Dec 2016
Original research article |  | 09 Dec 2016

Deriving pedotransfer functions for soil quartz fraction in southern France from reverse modeling

Jean-Christophe Calvet, Noureddine Fritz, Christine Berne, Bruno Piguet, William Maurel, and Catherine Meurey

Abstract. The quartz fraction in soils is a key parameter of soil thermal conductivity models. Because it is difficult to measure the quartz fraction in soils, this information is usually unavailable. This source of uncertainty impacts the simulation of sensible heat flux, evapotranspiration and land surface temperature in numerical simulations of the Earth system. Improving the estimation of soil quartz fraction is needed for practical applications in meteorology, hydrology and climate modeling. This paper investigates the use of long time series of routine ground observations made in weather stations to retrieve the soil quartz fraction. Profile soil temperature and water content were monitored at 21 weather stations in southern France. Soil thermal diffusivity was derived from the temperature profiles. Using observations of bulk density, soil texture, and fractions of gravel and soil organic matter, soil heat capacity and thermal conductivity were estimated. The quartz fraction was inversely estimated using an empirical geometric mean thermal conductivity model. Several pedotransfer functions for estimating quartz content from gravimetric or volumetric fractions of soil particles (e.g., sand) were analyzed. The soil volumetric fraction of quartz (fq) was systematically better correlated with soil characteristics than the gravimetric fraction of quartz. More than 60 % of the variance of fq could be explained using indicators based on the sand fraction. It was shown that soil organic matter and/or gravels may have a marked impact on thermal conductivity values depending on which predictor of fq is used. For the grassland soils examined in this study, the ratio of sand-to-soil organic matter fractions was the best predictor of fq, followed by the gravimetric fraction of sand. An error propagation analysis and a comparison with independent data from other tested models showed that the gravimetric fraction of sand is the best predictor of fq when a larger variety of soil types is considered.

Short summary
Soil thermal conductivity in wet conditions can be retrieved together with the soil quartz content using a reverse modelling technique based on sub-hourly soil temperature observations at three depths below the soil surface. A pedotransfer function is proposed for quartz, for the considered region in France. Gravels have a major impact on soil thermal conductivity, and omitting the soil organic matter information tends to enhance this impact.