A Soil Moisture Climatology of Illinois

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  • 1 Office of Applied Climatology, Illinois State Water Survey, Champaign, Illinois
  • | 2 Department of Geography, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois
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Abstract

Ten years of soil moisture measurements (biweekly from March through September and monthly during winter) within the top 1 m of soil at 17 grass-covered sites across Illinois are analyzed to provide a climatology of soil moisture for this important Midwest agricultural region. Sod moisture measurements were obtained with neutron probes that were calibrated for each site. Measurement errors are dependent upon the volumetric water content with errors less than 20 percent when soil moisture is above 10 percent of soil volume. Single point errors in moisture measurements from the top 1 m of soil range from 6 percent to 13 percent when volumetric soil moisture is 30 percent of soil volume. The average depletion in moisture between winter and summer over the 10-year period for the top 2 m of soil in Illinois was 72.3 mm. Three-quarters of this decrease occurred above 0.5 m and only 5 percent occurred between the 1.0-m and 2.0-m depths. The average moisture decrease between winter and summer during a wet year (1985) and a drought year (1988) in the top 2 m of soil was 64 percent and 204 percent of the average for the 10-year period, respectively. Seasonal means in soil moisture averaged for the state show the effects of different seasons and soil types on soil moisture. In the winter and spring a latitudinal gradient exists with the wetter soils in the southern part of the state. During summer and autumn there is a longitudinal gradient with the wetter soils in the eastern half of the state. The longitudinal gradient is closely associated with the depth of loess deposits. A north to south latitudinal gradient of soil moisture variability for the summer season is also evident in the 10 yr of records. A comparison of time series of soil moisture from sites with differing soil texture shows that a silty loam soil holds 2 to 3 times more water in the top 1 m than a loamy sand soil. Time series of soil moisture indicate that seasonal variations in water in the top 1 m at a grass-covered site was 1 to 2 times greater than at an adjacent nonvegetated site.

Abstract

Ten years of soil moisture measurements (biweekly from March through September and monthly during winter) within the top 1 m of soil at 17 grass-covered sites across Illinois are analyzed to provide a climatology of soil moisture for this important Midwest agricultural region. Sod moisture measurements were obtained with neutron probes that were calibrated for each site. Measurement errors are dependent upon the volumetric water content with errors less than 20 percent when soil moisture is above 10 percent of soil volume. Single point errors in moisture measurements from the top 1 m of soil range from 6 percent to 13 percent when volumetric soil moisture is 30 percent of soil volume. The average depletion in moisture between winter and summer over the 10-year period for the top 2 m of soil in Illinois was 72.3 mm. Three-quarters of this decrease occurred above 0.5 m and only 5 percent occurred between the 1.0-m and 2.0-m depths. The average moisture decrease between winter and summer during a wet year (1985) and a drought year (1988) in the top 2 m of soil was 64 percent and 204 percent of the average for the 10-year period, respectively. Seasonal means in soil moisture averaged for the state show the effects of different seasons and soil types on soil moisture. In the winter and spring a latitudinal gradient exists with the wetter soils in the southern part of the state. During summer and autumn there is a longitudinal gradient with the wetter soils in the eastern half of the state. The longitudinal gradient is closely associated with the depth of loess deposits. A north to south latitudinal gradient of soil moisture variability for the summer season is also evident in the 10 yr of records. A comparison of time series of soil moisture from sites with differing soil texture shows that a silty loam soil holds 2 to 3 times more water in the top 1 m than a loamy sand soil. Time series of soil moisture indicate that seasonal variations in water in the top 1 m at a grass-covered site was 1 to 2 times greater than at an adjacent nonvegetated site.

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