Soil moisture, temperature sensors installed at area watersheds

Published 9:01 am Wednesday, January 3, 2024

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UAH Earth System Science Center Research Scientist and Associate State Climatologist Dr. Lee Ellenburg, along with staff from the Choctawhatchee, Pea and Yellow Rivers Watershed Management Authority (CPYRWMA) installed four soil moisture and temperature sensors within the CPYRWMA watershed. The soil moisture sensors were developed by Ellenburg’s team at UAH.

Funded by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research’s Weather Program Office, Dr. Ellenburg is leading the effort to help build a large network of soil moisture sensors across the Southeast. Currently, there are only 18 soil moisture sites installed across Alabama’s 52,000 square miles by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), leaving large gaps of missing data.

Real-time data from the soil moisture sensors examine how soil moisture varies across the landscape of Alabama depending on weather events, soil type and vegetation and can measure moisture content from the surface to approximately two feet below ground.

According to Lisa Harris, CPYRWMA director, the sensors will enhance the agency’s Flood Warning System and provide valuable information to citizens, including farmers and foresters. Data about how quickly soils dry out during growing season dry spells helps farmers become more drought-resilient and better characterize drought impacts when seeking federal assistance. The data also aids the Forestry Commission when making decisions pertaining to prescribed burns.