It is well documented that capacitance-based soil moisture sensor measurements are particularly influenced by particle size distribution, density, salinity, and temperature of a soil, in addition to its moisture content. Moreover, the equations provided by manufacturers of soil moisture sensors are often only applicable to a limited number of soil types, thus yielding significant errors when compared with gravimetric measurements for observations in real soils. This limitation makes site-specific calibrations of such sensors necessary. Consequently, development of a general equation provides the possibility to derive the needed parameters from information such as soil type or particle size distribution. This paper describes the development of a general equation for the Campbell Scientific CS616 Water Content Reflectometers using data from sensors installed throughout the Goulburn River experimental catchment. It is subsequently tested using monitoring sites in the Murrumbidgee Soil Moisture Monitoring Network, which were not part of the original development; both monitoring networks are located in south-eastern Australia. Previously developed equations for temperature correction and soil moisture estimation using the Campbell Scientific CS615 Water Content Reflectometer are adapted to the new CS616 sensor. Moreover, relationships between readily available soil properties and the parameters of the general equations are derived. It is shown that the general equations developed here can be applied to data collected in the field using only information on the soil particle size distribution with an RMSE of around 6% m³/m³ (<1% m³/m³ under laboratory conditions; which is a significant improvement in comparison to 14% m³/m³ when using the manufacturer’s equations).
Journal of Hydrology Vol. 383, Issue 3-4, p. 319-329