Authors: Christopher “Chip” Redmond, Mary Knapp

The Kansas Mesonet is launching a new tool: soil moisture monitoring. Soil moisture is important for many field decisions. The Mesonet Soil Moisture page provides a general overview of the conditions across the state and by each station. This article gives a description of how soil moisture is monitored and reported.

Users can access this new tool from either the main Mesonet page by selecting from the drop down menu, Agriculture, then Soil Moisture (Figure 1); or directly from this link: http://mesonet.k-state.edu/agriculture/soilmoist/

Figure 1. Screenshot of the menu path to the new Soil Moisture page on the Kansas Mesonet.

Soil Moisture

All Kansas Mesonet tower stations measure soil moisture at four depths. We utilize a time differential reflectometer probe (TDR) by Campbell Scientific, the CS655 model. Installation of current sensors began in mid-2017 and were completed early 2018. Data beyond 365 days is not currently available online but can be obtained by emailing the Mesonet (kansas-wdl@ksu.edu).

Soil Depths and Location

Influencing Factors on Soil Moisture

Soil moisture is highly dependent on countless variables that can have local influences on the measured values, thus creating biases in the data. The Kansas Mesonet strives to limit these factors and make individual station data as representative of the surrounding region as possible.

Figure 2. Soil moisture sensors at four soil depths (5, 10, 20, and 50 cm) and a general depiction of soil water movement following a rain event. Graphic from Kansas Mesonet.

Understanding the Webpage

There are some changes compared to other web pages on the Mesonet. The soil moisture measurements are displayed in two forms:

“Wet vs Dry” verbiage is used at each station and depth to provide a quick and easy understanding of the current moisture present. Occasionally, “getting wetter” and “getting drier” will also follow the generic description. This description is the difference between the current measurement and that of seven days ago. It provides insight into general trends observed at each depth to assist in understanding the current state of the soil. Different from previous pages, you also have the ability to see these changes on a map with the “7-Day Change” for each depth using volumetric water content.

Lastly, the chart section has also been revised/improved to show larger scale trends beyond the initial seven days. The map is interactive as on previous pages. However, users now have the option to display the last 30, 90, and 365 days. This is a great tool to see numerous phenomena and trends during corresponding wet/dry periods. See below for some examples.

Using the Data

How might you benefit from Kansas Mesonet soil moisture data? Here are a few examples:

For more information on navigating this resource, users can select a page tour from the main soil moisture page located at the top of the featured map.

Christopher “Chip” Redmond, Kansas Mesonet Manager

Mary Knapp, Weather Data Library