Soil temperature and water beneath a surface fire
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): G. S. Campbell; J. D. Jungbauer; K. L. Bristow; Roger D. Hungerford
Publication Year: 1995

Cataloging Information

  • heat
  • heat effects
  • laboratory fires
  • moisture
  • soil moisture
  • soil temperature
  • soils
  • temperature
  • water
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: March 16, 2021
FRAMES Record Number: 37184
Tall Timbers Record Number: 11630
TTRS Location Status: In-file
TTRS Call Number: Fire File
TTRS Abstract Status: Fair use, Okay, Reproduced by permission

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.


We report here the results of laboratory and computer simulations designed to supply information on soil temperatures under forest and range fires. Measurements of temperature and water content in a soil column that was heated strongly at the surface showed a consistent pattern of warming and drying. In initially wet soil, temperature rose to around 95ºC and remained there until the water content of the soil at that depth dropped below about 0.02 m³ m-³. When the soil was initially dry, the temperature increased more rapidly, but even the moisture present in air-dry soil was sufficient to slow the rate of temperature rise when temperatures reached 90ºC. A linked-transport model, which simultaneously computes changes in temperature and water content, simulated the main features of heat and water flow in a soil column heated to high temperature. There were no consistent deviations of measured from modeled temperatures, but the water content simulations consistently showed a greater buildup of moisture ahead of the heating front than did the measurements, and less drying of the soil in the heated layers when the initial soil water content was low. Soils from sand to clay, and with differing mineralogies, water contents, and bulk densities were used to compare measurements and simulations. The model performed well in all cases. Since the temperature simulations are reasonable, the model appears suitable for predicting fire effects in the field.

Campbell, G. S., J. D. Jungbauer, K. L. Bristow, and R. D. Hungerford. 1995. Soil temperature and water beneath a surface fire. Soil Science, v. 159, no. 6, p. 363-374.