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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Forest understory soil temperatures and heat flux calculated using a Fourier model and scaled using a digital camera


The characterization of the solar radiation environment under a forest canopy is important for both understanding temperature-dependent biological processes and validating energy balance models. A modified sinusoidal model of soil heat conductivity was used to estimate subsurface temperature and heat flux from the uneven but periodic solar heating of the soil surface due to sun flecks from a forest canopy. Using a mobile sensor platform with an infrared thermometer along an 11 m transect, a sunfleck model of soil surface temperature was tested using soil surface temperature maxima, air temperatures, and photodiodes placed on the soil surface to measure sunflecks. A pan-tilt-zoom digital camera on a 10 m tower above the site was then used to capture a time series of panoramic images of sunflecks reflected from the soil surface and to scale the sunfleck temperature model to a wide area. Finally, this image-based model of surface temperatures was combined with the modified sinusoidal model for heat conduction to estimate soil subsurface temperatures and heat flux over a wide area due to sunflecks from a forest canopy.

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