Campus Units


Document Type


Publication Version

Accepted Manuscript

Publication Date


Journal or Book Title

Soil Science Society of America Journal




Heat pulse (HP) sensors have been used extensively to measure soil thermal properties and volumetric water content (θ) simultaneously. Probe spacing (R), the distance between heater probe and temperature probe, is routinely calibrated in agar solution before making HP measurements. In reality, R may change due to probe deflection at insertion into soil, causing uncertainties in HP measured volumetric heat capacity (C) and θ. In this paper, we present a simple on-site calibration method for determining in-situ R by using theoretical C values estimated from soil bulk density and θ values of intact soil cores collected near the sensor locations at the end of experiment. The proposed approach was tested on two field soils where C and θ were monitored continuously. Inconsistent results were observed between agar-calibrated R values (Ragar) and R values obtained from in-situ calibration (Rin-situ). Maximum difference between Ragar and Rin-situ reached 20% of Ragar. Compared toTDR measured θ, using Ragar led to root mean square errors (RMSEs) of 0.26 MJ m-3 K-1 in C and 0.06 m3 m-3 in θ on average. For Rin-situ, the RMSE of C was less than 0.16 MJ m-3 K-1 and RMSE of θ was within 0.04 m3 m-3. Thus, the use of in-situ probe spacing calibration improved the accuracies of HP measured C and θ.


This is a manuscript of an article published as Zhang, Meng, Yili Lu, Tusheng Ren, and Robert Horton. "In‐situ Probe Spacing Calibration Improves the Heat Pulse Method for Measuring Soil Heat Capacity and Water Content." Soil Science Society of America Journal (2020). doi: 10.1002/saj2.20124. Posted with permission.

Copyright Owner

© The Authors. Soil Science Society of America Journal © Soil Science Society of America



File Format


Available for download on Friday, July 16, 2021

Published Version