23 Dec 2021

23 Dec 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESSD.

Soil moisture observation in a forested headwater catchment: combining a dense cosmic-ray neutron sensor network with roving and hydrogravimetry at the TERENO site Wüstebach

Maik Heistermann1, Heye Bogena2, Till Francke1, Andreas Güntner3,1, Jannis Jakobi2, Daniel Rasche3,1, Martin Schrön4, Veronika Döpper5, Benjamin Fersch6, Jannis Groh2,7, Amol Patil8, Thomas Pütz2, Marvin Reich3, Steffen Zacharias4, Carmen Zengerle4, and Sascha Oswald1 Maik Heistermann et al.
  • 1Institute of Environmental Science and Geography, University of Potsdam, Karl-Liebknecht-Straße 24–25, 14476 Potsdam, Germany
  • 2Agrosphere IBG-3, Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, Leo-Brandt-Straße, 52425 Jülich, Germany
  • 3GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Section Hydrology, Telegrafenberg, 14473 Potsdam, Germany
  • 4UFZ – Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research GmbH, Dep. Monitoring and Exploration Technologies, Permoserstr. 15, 04318, Leipzig, Germany
  • 5Technical University of Berlin, Geoinformation for Environmental Planning Lab, Straße des 17. Juni 135, 10623 Berlin, Germany
  • 6Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Campus Alpin (IMK-IFU), Kreuzeckbahnstraße 19, 82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
  • 7Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF), Eberswalder Str. 84, 15374 Müncheberg, Germany
  • 8Institute of Geography, University of Augsburg, Alter Postweg 118, 86159 Augsburg, Germany

Abstract. Cosmic Ray Neutron Sensing (CRNS) has become an effective method to measure soil moisture at a horizontal scale of hundreds of meters and a depth of decimeters. Recent studies proposed to operate CRNS in a network with overlapping footprints in order to cover root-zone water dynamics at the small catchment scale, and, at the same time, to represent spatial heterogeneity. In a joint field campaign from September to November 2020 (JFC-2020), five German research institutions deployed 15 CRNS sensors in the 0.4 km2 Wüstebach catchment (Eifel mountains, Germany). The catchment is dominantly forested (but includes a substantial fraction of open vegetation), and features a topographically distinct watershed. In addition to the dense CRNS coverage, the campaign featured a unique combination of additional instruments and techniques: hydro-gravimetry (to detect water storage dynamics also below the root zone); ground-based and, for the first time, airborne CRNS roving; an extensive wireless soil sensor network, supplemented by manual measurements; and six weighable lysimeters. Together with comprehensive data from the long-term local research infrastructure, the published dataset (available at will be a valuable asset in various research contexts: to advance the retrieval of landscape water storage from CRNS, wireless soil sensor networks, or hydrogravimetry; to identify scale-specific combinations of sensors and methods to represent soil moisture variability; to improve the understanding and simulation of land-atmosphere exchange as well as hydrological and hydrogeological processes at the hill-slope and the catchment scale; and to support the retrieval soil water content from airborne and spaceborne remote sensing platforms.

Maik Heistermann et al.

Status: open (until 17 Feb 2022)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on essd-2021-445', Anonymous Referee #1, 29 Dec 2021 reply
    • AC1: 'Reply to RC1', Maik Heistermann, 10 Jan 2022 reply
  • RC2: 'Comment on essd-2021-445', Anonymous Referee #2, 11 Jan 2022 reply
    • AC2: 'Reply to RC2', Maik Heistermann, 11 Jan 2022 reply

Maik Heistermann et al.

Data sets

Soil moisture observation in a forested headwater catchment: combining a dense cosmic-ray neutron sensor network with roving and hydrogravimetry at the TERENO site Wüstebach Heistermann, M., Bogena, H., Francke, T., Güntner, A., Jakobi, J., Rasche, D., Schrön, M., Fersch, B., Groh, J., Patil, A., Pütz, T., Reich, M., Zacharias, S., Zengerle, C., Oswald, S.

Maik Heistermann et al.


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Short summary
This paper presents a dense network of Cosmic Ray Neutron Sensors (CRNS) to measure spatiotemporal soil moisture patterns during a two month campaign in the Wüstebach headwater catchment in Germany. Stationary, mobile, and airborne CRNS technology monitored the root-zone water dynamics as well as spatial heterogeneity in the 0.4 km2 area. The 15 CRNS stations were supported by a hydrogravimeter, extensive biomass sampling, and a dense TDT network to facilitate holistic hydrological analysis.