Experimental determination of soil heat storage for the simulation of heat transport in a coastal wetland

Michael Swain, Matthew Swain, Melinda Lohmann, Eric Swain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Two physical experiments were developed to better define the thermal interaction of wetland water and the underlying soil layer. This information is important to numerical models of flow and heat transport that have been developed to support biological studies in the South Florida coastal wetland areas. The experimental apparatus consists of two 1.32. m diameter by 0.99. m tall, trailer-mounted, well-insulated tanks filled with soil and water. A peat-sand-soil mixture was used to represent the wetland soil, and artificial plants were used as a surrogate for emergent wetland vegetation based on size and density observed in the field. The tanks are instrumented with thermocouples to measure vertical and horizontal temperature variations and were placed in an outdoor environment subject to solar radiation, wind, and other factors affecting the heat transfer. Instruments also measure solar radiation, relative humidity, and wind speed.Tests indicate that heat transfer through the sides and bottoms of the tanks is negligible, so the experiments represent vertical heat transfer effects only. The temperature fluctuations measured in the vertical profile through the soil and water are used to calibrate a one-dimensional heat-transport model. The model was used to calculate the thermal conductivity of the soil. Additionally, the model was used to calculate the total heat stored in the soil. This information was then used in a lumped parameter model to calculate an effective depth of soil which provides the appropriate heat storage to be combined with the heat storage in the water column. An effective depth, in the model, of 5.1. cm of wetland soil represents the heat storage needed to match the data taken in the tank containing 55.9. cm of peat/sand/soil mix. The artificial low-density laboratory sawgrass reduced the solar energy absorbed by the 35.6. cm of water and 55.9. cm of soil at midday by less than 5%. The maximum heat transfer into the underlying peat-sand-soil mix lags behind maximum solar radiation by approximately 2. h. A slightly longer temperature lag was observed between the maximum solar radiation and maximum water temperature both with and without soil.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-62
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Hydrology
StatePublished - Feb 23 2012


  • Heat transport
  • Overland flow
  • Physical experiment
  • Thermal storage
  • Wetlands

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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