Monday, February 20, 2017

Soil Temperature and Insolation within Varied Topography of the Rocky Mountains

Incoming solar radiation, insolation, is a vital aspect of the processes on earth that bring forth life. Insolation directly affects temperature by adding heat to the surface of the ground, and indirecty affects on evapotranspiration, photosynthesis, wind conditions, snow melt, and air and soil temperature. Paul Rich and Pinde Fu created insolation maps from digital elevation models (DEM) and used an insolation model that accounted for; atmospheric conditions, elevation, surface orientation, and influences of surrounding topography in the Rocky Mountains. That insolation model was used to focus on soil temperature measurements within this complex topography.

The researchers found that simple interpolation in areas with varied topographical terrain did not produce sufficient data to create high resolution soil temperature maps.In order to improve soil temperature calculations Rich and Fu created an insolation-modified soil temperature model that used a geometric insolation sub model. The researchers were able to create,with accuracy, high resolution temperature maps of their study area near the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Colorado. Understanding the levels and distribution of inoslation within varied topographies could potentially be helpful in avoiding forest fires or even determining the best time to plant crops, giving this research applications in forestry and agriculture.

Fu, P., & Rich, P. M. (2002). A geometric solar radiation model with applications in agriculture and forestry. Computers and electronics in agriculture37(1), 25-35.


  1. Very interesting research here, thanks for sharing. I am curious if this could be applied to predict likely areas of forest fires in the NW and SE United states that are currently experiencing severe pressures from these events. I guess it is possible other factors like fire-suppression and changing land-use are at play for the onset of these fires and would need to be considered in addition to insolation mapping to best predict problem areas.

  2. This is interesting. I wonder if it is possible to track the influence of human action on these conditions, and how this sort of insolation research changes with observations of climate change.