A changepoint approach to modelling non-stationary soil moisture dynamics

Abstract

Soil moisture dynamics provide an indicator of soil health that scientists model via soil drydown curves. The typical modeling process requires the soil moisture time series to be manually separated into drydown segments and then exponential decay models are fitted to them independently. Sensor development over recent years means that experiments that were previously conducted over a few field campaigns can now be scaled to months or even years, often at a higher sampling rate. Manual identification of drydown segments is no longer practical. To better meet the challenge of increasing data size, this paper proposes a novel changepoint-based approach to automatically identify structural changes in the soil drying process, and estimate the parameters characterizing the drying processes simultaneously. A simulation study is carried out to assess the performance of the method. The results demonstrate its ability to identify structural changes and retrieve key parameters of interest to soil scientists. The method is applied to hourly soil moisture time series from the NEON data portal to investigate the temporal dynamics of soil moisture drydown. We recover known relationships previously identified manually, alongside delivering new insights into the temporal variability across soil types and locations.Comment: 19 pages for the main manuscript, 6 pages for the supplemental documen

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