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Inferring deep soil moisture variations in Central and Southern Europe using seismic method

Soil moisture is a key metric to assess soil health. Water held in the shallow subsurface between soil particles enables various biogeochemical and hydrological processes indispensable to soil functions. Potential soil moisture deficit may rise the irrigation demands, which further exacerbates the stress on the water supply. The changes in soil moisture can impact climate, further amplifying the climatic anomalies and intensifying extreme weather events. Thus, understanding soil moisture and its dynamics over time are of broad scientifical interest and practical implications.

Despite the vital importance of soil moisture, it still lacks sufficient means to properly assess the parameter at a regional scale, which is an essential research dimension for addressing practical issues in the agricultural and environmental sectors.

Ambient noise seismology provides new possibilities to infer subsurface changes in a real-time, non-intrusive, and cost-effective manner. In this study, we map the temporal variations in soil moisture for the great Alpine region and the Italy peninsular with ambient seismic noise. It is the first time that the seismic method has been applied to map water resources at a regional scale using an ordinary national seismic network set-up. The seismic method helps in bridging the resolution gap between current pointwise (e.g., tensio-, electrical- and neutron-meter) and global (e.g., satellite-based remote sensing) investigations, providing complementary information for both scientific research and public decision-making.


Yang Lu1, Qing-Yu Wang2, Götz Bokelmann1
1University of Vienna, Austria; 2Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA.
GeoBerlin 2023