EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Physical-based hydrological modelling for real-time forecasting of soil moisture in a mesoscale catchment

Keshav Parameshwaran Shankara Mahadevan1, Hartmut Holländer1, Paul Bullock2, Steven Frey3, and Timi Ojo2,4
Keshav Parameshwaran Shankara Mahadevan et al.
  • 1Civil Engineering Department, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada (
  • 2Department of Soil Science, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada
  • 3Aquanty Inc., Waterloo, Canada
  • 4Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development, Winnipeg, Canada

Soil moisture is highly variable in space and time. Climate change is expected to increase the variation in precipitation that may cause more frequent extremes in soil moisture. This will have major impacts on agriculture and infrastructure. Hence, forecasting can help mitigate the impacts of soil moisture extremes by providing warning about upcoming extreme events. Accurate soil moisture forecasting will provide policymakers, farmers and other stakeholders more reliable information on crop yield potential and flood risk to improve decision making.  Real-time soil moisture monitoring and forecasting can be accomplished by utilizing a numerical modelling approach that consolidates various sources of weather and hydrological data to simulate soil moisture levels. Soil water movement is difficult to describe numerically for fine-textured soils. Additionally, soil water behaviour during freeze/thaw events are generally weakly described by numerical tools. This study addresses both problems and evaluates how soil moisture can be forecasted under the hydrologically challenging conditions of the Red River Valley using the Brunkild catchment within the Red River basin.  The Brunkild catchment represents a highly variable landscape cross-section that includes heavy clay soils of the Red River Valley through to the coarse-textured soils of the adjacent escarpment. Soil moisture levels were continuously monitored from June – August 2020 using Sentek sensors which were installed at depths of 10 to 90 cm with 10 cm spacing, and with POGO sensors that were used to manually measure surface soil moisture levels at monthly intervals from June to August 2020. Climate variables were obtained from the RISMA (Real-time In-situ Soil Monitoring for Agriculture) stations present inside the catchment.  In addition to soil moisture data, surface water flow and groundwater data will also be used to aid with calibration and validation of a fully-integrated HydroGeoSphere (HGS) surface water – groundwater model of the catchment. Preliminary results using MERRA 2 data as climate forcing showed a strong fit for all observations in sandy soils and a good fit for all observation in clay. The next simulations will use the observed weather data. The model will be recalibrated and then being used to forecast soil moisture in the Brunkild catchment for the coming 14 days for the 2021 growing season.

How to cite: Shankara Mahadevan, K. P., Holländer, H., Bullock, P., Frey, S., and Ojo, T.: Physical-based hydrological modelling for real-time forecasting of soil moisture in a mesoscale catchment, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-13695,, 2021.

Corresponding presentation materials formerly uploaded have been withdrawn.