In situ thermistor calibration for improved measurement of soil temperature gradients Academic Article uri icon


  • Accurate measurement of soil temperature gradients is important for the estimation of soil heat flux and latent heat flux, both major components of the surface energy balance. Soil temperature gradients are commonly measured using heat-pulse sensors equipped with thermistors. In this study, individual thermistors showed absolute temperature differences on the order of 0.2°C when placed under uniform temperature conditions. These differences compromised measurement of soil temperature gradients over small depth increments and/or conditions with relatively minor variation in temperatures. An in situ calibration approach was found to reduce the uncertainty between thermistors to about 0.05°C in a vineyard under arid conditions. In situ calibration results were similar to laboratory results before and after field deployment for temperatures ranging between 4 and 60°C. Thermistor offsets were found to change very little over a 5-yr period, indicating that pre- or post-laboratory calibration could be sufficient. The in situ approach can be useful when calibration prior to field deployment is unavailable and/or sensor failure prevents post-field calibration.

publication date

  • January 1, 2016