Sen Lu Tusheng Ren Robert Horton
Soil thermal conductivity is an important parameter for estimating soil heat flux and soil thermal regime. Knowledge on the components of apparent soil thermal conductivity (λ) across various water contents (θ) and temperatures is important to accurately understand soil heat transfer mechanisms. In this study, soil thermal conductivity was measured for sandy loam and silty clay soils at various temperatures and air pressures using a transient method. Four components of λ, namely, heat conduction, latent heat transfer by water vapor diffusion, sensible heat transfer by liquid water, and sensible heat transfer by water vapor diffusion were quantified. Results showed that in uniform soils, the magnitudes of sensible heat transfers by liquid water and water vapor were negligible during these transient measurements. The contribution of latent heat transfer through vapor diffusion to total heat transfer increased as temperature increased, and the peak value occurred at an intermediate water content. The water content at which the maximum vapor diffusion occurred varied with soil texture. In addition to the four calculated components, a significant residual contribution to λ caused by an unidentified vapor transfer mechanism was observed between 3.5°C and 81°C. For example, calculations indicated that approximately 66% of the sandy loam λ at θ=0.11 m³ m⁻³ was caused by an unidentified vapor transfer mechanism at 81°C. This extra contribution by vapor transfer could be explained either as enhanced vapor diffusion or by an advection mechanism. Further investigation is needed to clarify whether enhanced diffusion or advection is occurring in unsaturated soils.
Soil thermal conductivity; Vapor transfer; Heat conduction; Transient method