A water flux system is an integrated system of components used to measure, record, and process the water (H2O) exchange between the biosphere and atmosphere in the surface layer of the atmosphere. These systems are used over different land types (such as forests, grasslands, crops, and shrubs) across the globe to provide information needed for management and research purposes. Water flux systems that offer a rugged design, low power requirement, low maintenance, and network monitoring software can operate remotely for long periods without the need for expensive site visits.
Note: Similar terms to describe “water flux systems” may include “H2O flux,” “latent heat flux,” “LHF,” “evapotranspiration,” and “ET.”
The water flux systems offered by Campbell Scientific measure the water exchange between the biosphere and atmosphere using the eddy-covariance technique. This technique relies on a high-resolution, fast-response 3-D sonic anemometer, as well as a fast-response gas analyzer, data logger, and flux processing program.
A typical water flux system, using the eddy-covariance technique, comprises a variety of components, including the following:
A 3-D sonic anemometer (such as Campbell Scientific’s CSAT3B, CSAT3A, or IRGASON®) measures three orthogonal wind components and the speed of sound by determining the time of flight of sound between three pairs of transducers. In a water flux system, the turbulent fluctuations of vertical wind measured by the 3-D sonic anemometer are used in conjunction with an infrared gas analyzer to estimate the magnitude and direction of H2O exchange. This instrument must have adequate frequency response to capture small eddies in the atmosphere. All of Campbell Scientific’s sonic anemometers have adequate frequency response to be used in water flux systems.
A gas analyzer in a water flux system measures the scalar component of the flux. Campbell Scientific’s gas analyzers for measuring H2O exchange (IRGASON®, EC150 and EC155) are non-dispersive mid-infrared (NDIR) absorption analyzers. A source of infrared radiation is passed along an optical path to a detector. Interference filters are used to filter light wavelengths that correspond to H2O absorption and H2O transmittance. Thus, the dual wavelength nature of the analyzers provides both a reference and sample reading without the need for a separate reference cell and detector.
Gas analyzers used for measuring water flux with the eddy-covariance method must be aerodynamic and sample fast enough to resolve small eddies.
The data loggers used with Campbell Scientific water flux systems require a program for data storage and system operation. For the open- and closed-path water flux system, this program is provided as part of our EasyFlux® DL offering. EasyFlux® DL is a CRBasic program that enables the data logger to report fully corrected water fluxes processed from raw high frequency time series data by applying commonly used corrections found in scientific literature. Additionally, this program stores diagnostic and calibration information.
Water flux systems are often equipped with additional sensors to measure the surface energy balance. The surface energy balance consists of the net radiation (Rn), soil heat flux (G), latent heat flux (LE), and sensible heat flux (H). A CNR4-L, NR01-L, or NR-LITE2-L (from Campbell Scientific) is used to measure the net radiation. In a Campbell Scientific water flux system, HFP01-L or HFP01SC-L heat flux plates are used with CS616 or CS65(x) water content reflectometers and TCAV-L averaging thermocouples to calculate the ground heat flux. The gas analyzer and sonic anemometer provide water flux measurements for the latent and sensible heat flux. When an examination of the surface energy balance is performed, it checks for a conservation of energy and can provide estimates of flux reliability or bias in the measurements.
In conjunction with the surface energy balance sensors discussed in the previous section, additional biometeorology sensors are often used with the water flux system. In a Campbell Scientific water flux system, these include temperature and relative humidity probes (such as the HMP155A-L or EE181-L), rain gages (such as the TE525-L), and infrared leaf radiometers (such as the SI-111). Data from these sensors are important for gap filling flux data and for understanding environmental conditions.
Note: Consideration of the flux footprint must be taken into account when determining the placement of instruments.
Cellular, radio, or satellite telemetry can be used for remote communications to water flux systems. This can allow for data monitoring as well as data transfer of fully processed fluxes. Moreover, with the addition of EasyFlux® Web, it is easier to monitor institution networks of remote water flux systems from anywhere in the world.
Water flux systems can be compared and contrasted on several different levels, but the following are some primary characteristics that may be helpful for you to be mindful of:
Campbell Scientific is known for its high-quality data loggers that operate in some of the harshest environmental conditions experienced on earth. These data loggers are at the heart of our water flux systems. Additionally, Campbell Scientific also offers field-rugged, robust analyzers to make water flux measurements. Our low-power H2O analyzers are optimized to be used confidently on remote solar panel systems while keeping biases such as heat generated by the gas analyzer out of the measurement. Additionally, our CSAT sonic anemometer is designed with small-diameter transducers at optimized path lengths set at 60 degrees from horizontal to minimize transducer-induced shadowing effects on turbulence measurements. The CSAT also includes an optional correction for instances when wind blows parallel to the transducer path length.
The eddy-covariance technique is commonly used for water flux measurements to estimate evapotranspiration. There are, however, two different approaches that may be employed: open path or closed path.
Naturally, each approach has its advantages and disadvantages.
The following are some advantages of closed-path systems:
Closed-path systems have the following disadvantages:
The following are some advantages of open-path systems:
Open-path systems have the following disadvantages:
Measurement instruments used in water flux systems may or may not have integrated sensors to make colocated measurements.
A truly colocated design avoids flux loss due to spatial separation, which becomes more important the closer to the surface the instrument is located. In addition, a colocated design provides a sonic temperature in the path of the gas measurement, allowing for a flux to be calculated based on a point-by-point mixing ratio.
An instrument with a fixed separation between the sonic anemometer and the gas analyzer minimizes wind flow distortion effects caused by the analyzer housing at large angles of attack. An instrument with this type of spatial separation, however, requires a correction factor to account for the flux loss, as well as a density correction on fluxes because there is no longer a sonic temperature measurement in the gas measurement path.
Selecting a water flux system is an important decision that requires careful consideration. For assistance with the selection process, review the detailed Purchase Considerations section.
To assess the various water flux systems available to you and ultimately determine which system is the most suitable, you should first identify your application's needs and requirements. If necessary, review any related documentation, permits, or regulations. Your familiarity with these items will help ensure that the system you select will meet your compliance requirements.
Note: The considerations discussed here do not constitute an all-inclusive list but serve to provide common considerations that have been helpful to our customers in guiding them through the selection process.
Measurement-related priorities can be crucial to selecting the appropriate equipment.
Determine whether you require an open-path or closed-path approach.
If an open-path approach is chosen, determine whether measurements of wind speed and scalar gas need to be colocated.
If the site for your water flux system is remote and not easily accessed, you will need to select components that match well with your intended frequency of site visits.
To provide continuous monitoring, you will need a power supply that is sized to meet the total power requirements of all the components of your water flux system.
As with any high-performance equipment, some level of maintenance (cleaning, calibration, and replacement) of the various water flux components is routinely required. Review the recommended calibration and maintenance frequency of your system components so you can create a maintenance budget in terms of employee resources, travel time for site visits, and equipment costs. Determine which maintenance tasks can be handled onsite, such as with a field calibration tool, and which require equipment to be sent to the manufacturer. If downtime without data is not acceptable, have sufficient replacement parts (such as batteries) and backup equipment on hand.
If it is important for you to collect and view your data without having to visit your site, investigate the telemetry options available to you. If wireless transmission is available, you can use a telemetry peripheral to transmit your water flux data remotely. The following are some possible telecommunication options:
Each telecommunication option has its own requirements that should be reviewed. For example, review the transmission distance or area of each option, as well as its applicable service requirements. You may find that a particular option is not available or does not provide the coverage you need.