GI6.8 | Cosmic rays across scales and disciplines: the new frontier in environmental research
Cosmic rays across scales and disciplines: the new frontier in environmental research
Co-organized by AS4/PS2/ST4
Convener: Martin SchrönECSECS | Co-conveners: Konstantin Herbst, Jannis WeimarECSECS, Cosimo BrogiECSECS, Daniel RascheECSECS
| Fri, 28 Apr, 16:15–18:00 (CEST)
Room -2.91
Posters on site
| Attendance Fri, 28 Apr, 10:45–12:30 (CEST)
Hall X4
Posters virtual
| Attendance Fri, 28 Apr, 10:45–12:30 (CEST)
Orals |
Fri, 16:15
Fri, 10:45
Fri, 10:45
Cosmic rays carry information about space and solar activity, and, once near the Earth, they produce isotopes, influence genetic information, and are extraordinarily sensitive to water. Given the vast spectrum of interactions of cosmic rays with matter in different parts of the Earth and other planets, cosmic-ray research ranges from studies of the solar system to the history of the Earth, and from health and security issues to hydrology, agriculture, and climate change.
Although research on cosmic-ray particles is connected to a variety of disciplines and applications, they all share similar questions and challenges regarding the physics of detection, modeling, and the influence of environmental factors.

The session brings together scientists from all fields of research that are related to monitoring and modeling of cosmogenic radiation. It will allow sharing of expertise amongst international researchers as well as showcase recent advancements in their field. The session aims to stimulate discussions about how individual disciplines can share their knowledge and benefit from each other.

We solicit contributions related but not limited to:
- Health, security, and radiation protection: cosmic-ray dosimetry on Earth and its dependence on environmental and atmospheric factors
- Planetary space science: satellite and ground-based neutron and gamma-ray sensors to detect water and soil constituents
- Neutron and Muon monitors: detection of high-energy cosmic-ray variations and its dependence on local, atmospheric, and magnetospheric factors
- Hydrology and climate change: low-energy neutron sensing to measure water in reservoirs at and near the land surface, such as soils, snow pack, and vegetation
- Cosmogenic nuclides: as tracers of atmospheric circulation and mixing; as a tool in archaeology or glaciology for dating of ice and measuring ablation rates; and as a tool for surface exposure dating and measuring rates of surficial geological processes
- Detector design: technological advancements in the detection of cosmic rays and cosmogenic particles
- Cosmic-ray modeling: advances in modeling of the cosmic-ray propagation through the magnetosphere and atmosphere, and their response to the Earth's surface
- Impact modeling: How can cosmic-ray monitoring support environmental models, weather and climate forecasting, agricultural and irrigation management, and the assessment of natural hazards

Orals: Fri, 28 Apr | Room -2.91

Chairpersons: Martin Schrön, Daniel Rasche, Jannis Weimar
Virtual presentation
Jack T. Wilson, Patrick N. Peplowski, Zachary W. Yokley, David J. Lawrence, and Richard C. Elphic

3He gas proportional counters have an extensive history in planetary neutron spectroscopy and several upcoming missions including Psyche, VIPER, MMX and Dragonfly will include this technology. In space, Galactic Cosmic Ray (GCR) protons deposit energy in the 3He gas in these detectors via ionization. This energy deposition constitutes a background on top of the neutron capture pulse-height spectrum that is particularly prominent at low energies. As planetary nuclear spectroscopy experiments are often count-rate limited using the full pulse height spectrum, including the proton and triton wall effect regions, has significant value. This will be particularly true for the upcoming VIPER mission that will explore the permanently shaded regions at the Moon’s south pole using the Neutron Spectrometer System (NSS).  The NSS does not include a neutron generator, so the count rates are low, and the rover will not spend long at any location.  However, using lower-energy parts of the spectrum requires understanding the GCR-originating background, which none of the previous missions were able to measure due to their low-energy cutoffs. GCR protons with mean energy around 400 MeV deposit similar amounts of energy to the 4 GeV mean-energy muons present at ground level as both represent minimum ionizing particles within the 3He sensors.  We therefore developed an experiment using a pair of plastic scintillators in coincidence with a 3He tube to measure energy deposition from muons while excluding room background gamma rays.  Here we will present results of this experiment to characterize the angular response to cosmic ray muons of a 3He flight spare detector from the VIPER NSS and explore the implications of these results for analysis of planetary neutron data sets.

How to cite: Wilson, J. T., Peplowski, P. N., Yokley, Z. W., Lawrence, D. J., and Elphic, R. C.: Cosmic ray muons as a proxy for in-cruise galactic cosmic ray protons in 3He gas proportional counters, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 23–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-17421,, 2023.

On-site presentation
Alexander Mishev, Sanja Panovska, and Ilya Usoskin

An important topic in the field of space physics is the quantification of the cosmic-ray-induced effects in the atmosphere and the corresponding space weather effects. Space weather effects, specifically the exposure to radiation at aviation altitudes, represent an important threat. Here, we focus on a specific class of events due to solar energetic particles (SEPs), viz. events that can be registered at ground level: ground-level enhancements and more particularly extreme events with cosmogenic imprints,i.e. that have been registered by 14C records.

Naturally, for assessment of space weather effects during extreme SEP events, it is necessary to possess precise information on their spectra. Here we present results and application of an analysis of SEPs using neutron monitor (NM) records, that is derivation of their spectra, and application of numerical models. Using reconstructed spectra during the strongest directly recorded event, that is GLE # 5, occurred on 23 February 1956, and employing a convenient rescaling,  we assessed the space weather effect during the strongest indirectly reconstructed historical extreme SEP event, that is, 774 AD. Subseqeuntly, employing a state-of-the-art reconstruction of the magnetic field we study the worst-case scenario representing a combination of a geomagnetic excursion, that is the Laschamp excursion ca. 42 kyr ago and a 774 AD-like event. The possible implications are discussed.

How to cite: Mishev, A., Panovska, S., and Usoskin, I.: Space weather during extreme SEPs: new assessment of worst case scenario, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 23–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-185,, 2023.

On-site presentation
Nicholas Larsen, Alexander Mishev, and Ilya Usoskin

We present a new open-source tool for magnetospheric computations, that is modelling of cosmic ray propagation in the geomagnetosphere, named "Oulu - Open-source geomagneToSphere prOpagation tool" (OTSO). A tool of this nature is required to interpret experiments and study phenomena within the cosmic ray research field.  Here, we demonstrate several applications of OTSO, namely the computation of asymptotic directions of selected cosmic ray stations, effective rigidity cut-off across the globe at various conditions within the design, and general properties, including the magnetospheric models employed. OTSO was applied to the investigation of several ground-level enhancement events after which comparison and validation of OTSO with older widely used tools such as MAGNETOCOSMICS was performed, and good agreement was achieved. The necessary background for the analysis of two notable ground-level enhancements was produced using OTSO and their spectral and angular characteristics show good agreement with prior studies and spacecraft data. This validation of OTSO's current abilities reveals its usefulness to the cosmic ray research field and its open-source nature further allows for the tool to be developed beyond its current capabilities by users to meet the needs of the research community.

How to cite: Larsen, N., Mishev, A., and Usoskin, I.: A New Open-Source Geomagnetosphere Propagation Tool (OTSO) and its Applications, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 23–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-287,, 2023.

On-site presentation
Application of Empirical Models for Assessment of the Atmospheric Ionization During a Geomagnetic Reversal
Jacob Svensmark
Virtual presentation
Lisa Romaneehsen, Sönke Burmeister, Hanna Giese, Bernd Heber, and Konstantin Herbst

The Earth is continuously exposed to galactic cosmic rays. The magnetized solar wind in the heliosphere and the Earth's magnetic field alters the flux of these particles. If cosmic rays hit the atmosphere, they can form secondary particles. The total flux measured within the atmosphere depends on the atmospheric density above the observer. Therefore, the ability of a particle to approach an aircraft depends on its energy, the altitude, and the position of the plane. The cutoff rigidity describes the latter.
The radiation detector of the detector system NAVIDOS (NAVIgation DOSimetry) is the DOSimetry Telescope (DOSTEL), measuring the count and dose rates in two semiconductor detectors. From 2008 to 2011, two instruments were installed in two aircraft. First, we corrected the data for pressure variation by normalizing them to one flight level and determined their dependence on the cutoff rigidity by fitting a Dorman function to the observation. The latter was used to compute the yield function, which describes the ratio of incoming primary cosmic rays, approximated by a force field solution, to the measured count and dose rate for a particular instrument. As for neutron monitors, the sensitivity increases substantially above a rigidity of about 1 GV.
We received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 870405. 

How to cite: Romaneehsen, L., Burmeister, S., Giese, H., Heber, B., and Herbst, K.: Yield function of the DOSimetry TELescope (DOSTEL) count and dose rates aboard an aircraft, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 23–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-15980,, 2023.

On-site presentation
Alejandro López-Comazzi and Juan José Blanco-Ávalos

Neutron monitor counting rates show, among others, a  $\sim$ 1.6--2.2-year period. This period has been associated with a solar origin affecting the cosmic ray propagation conditions through the heliosphere. The duration of this period varies from one Solar Cycle to another.
\cite{Comazzi_Blanco_2022} found the duration of the $\sim$ 1.6--2.2-year period ($\tau$) is linearly related to the averaged sunspot number ($SSN_a$) in each Solar Cycle.
In this piece of research, we have analyzed this relationship. This equation shows that shorter $\sim$1.6--2.2-year periods occur during stronger cycles when $SSN_a$ is higher. Drawing on this relationship given by $SSN_a = (-130 \pm 10) \: \tau + (330 \pm 30)$, we computed $\tau$ for the cycles previous to the existence of neutron monitors (Solar Cycles 7--19). 
By means of the Huancayo neutron monitor spectrum we checked the validity of this equation along the Solar Cycle 19. 
Once the previous relationship is checked, $\tau$ for the current Solar Cycle 25 is computed giving $\sim$ 2.22 years.

An internal mechanism of the solar dynamo called Rossby waves could produce these variations in the solar magnetic field  and, indirectly, in neutron monitor counting rates.
The harmonic of fast Rossby waves with $m=1$ and $n=8$ fit with the detected periodicity and the variation of the solar magnetic field strength from weaker to stronger Solar Cycles could explain the different periods detected in each cycle.
Finally, a solar magnetic field strength of $\sim$ 7--25 kG in the tachocline have been estimated based on the detected periodicities using the dispersion relation for fast Rossby waves. 

How to cite: López-Comazzi, A. and Blanco-Ávalos, J. J.: Study of the relationship between Sunspot number and the duration of the $\sim$1.6--2.2-year period in neutron monitor counting rates, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 23–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-11981,, 2023.

On-site presentation
Juan José Blanco, Juan Ignacio García Tejedor, Sindulfo Ayuso de Gregorio, Óscar García Población, Alejandro López-Comazzi, Diego Sanz Martín, Ivan Vrublevskyy, Laura Gonzalvo Ballano, and Alberto Regadío

ORCA (2.37 GV) is a suit of two neutron monitors and a muon telescope. It was installed at Juan Carlos I Antarctic Base on January 2019 being in operation since. Because the low level of the solar activity, only a few of solar events have been detected. The GLE 73 and three Forbush decreases. A new ORCA like detector (ICaRO, 11.5 GV) is being installed at 2200 m a.s.l in Izaña Atmospheric Observatory (Tenerife Island, Spain). On the other hand, CaLMa neutron monitor (6.95 GV) will be updated with a muon telescope made by eight 1 m2 scintillators arranged in two layers of four scintillators at some point during the next two years. These three detector will measure muons and neutrons from cosmic ray interaction with atmosphere at three different locations allowing to study the solar activity from a new perspective

How to cite: Blanco, J. J., García Tejedor, J. I., Ayuso de Gregorio, S., García Población, Ó., López-Comazzi, A., Sanz Martín, D., Vrublevskyy, I., Gonzalvo Ballano, L., and Regadío, A.: ORCA (Observatorio de Rayos Cósmicos Antártico), current status and future perspectives, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 23–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-4506,, 2023.

Virtual presentation
Meeran Zuberi and the The GRAPES-3 Collaboration

The GRAPES-3 muon telescope (G3MT) has been recording high statistics of muons at a rate of ~50000 per second for the past two decades allowing us to probe the tiny variations in the muon flux caused by solar phenomena. The directional capabilities of G3MT enable us to look into 169 independent directions with a large median rigidity ranging from 64 to 141 GV. We have examined the 22 years (2000-2021) of G3MT data using the Fourier series technique to obtain the daily SDA amplitude and phase. The measured SDA amplitude and phase show a strong rigidity dependence. We found that the phase dominantly has the 22-year variation controlled by the drift effect due to solar polar magnetic field reversal, regardless of their rigidity. However, the higher rigidity bin phase variation shows an additional component of the 11 years controlled by the diffusion. The details of this work will be discussed during the talk.

How to cite: Zuberi, M. and the The GRAPES-3 Collaboration: Rigidity dependence of cosmic ray diurnal anisotropy using 22 years of GRAPES-3 muon telescope data, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 23–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-15741,, 2023.

On-site presentation
Fraser Baird and Keith Ryden

Cosmic Ray Sensors (CRS) are used worldwide to measure soil moisture at intermediate scales, exploiting the neutrons produced in the air showers created by cosmic ray particles interacting with the atmosphere. Neutron Monitors also exploit these atmospheric neutrons, but they are shielded from local soil moisture variations so that information about the cosmic ray flux near Earth can be deduced from their observations. Neutron monitors remain the state of the art for observing variations in high-energy cosmic rays and are critically important to understanding ground-level enhancements of atmospheric radiation caused by high energy solar energetic particles.

This contribution explores how the UK CRS network (COSMOS-UK) can complement the neutron monitor network in monitoring these ground-level enhancements, as well as other space weather-driven variations in the ground-level neutron flux. Observations of such variations using COSMOS-UK are presented and discussed, and the sensitivity of COSMOS-UK to ground-level enhancements is also shown. Finally, the prospects and challenges of improving the space weather utility of CRS networks are discussed.

How to cite: Baird, F. and Ryden, K.: Cosmic Ray Soil Moisture Sensors as an Asset to Space Weather Monitoring Activities, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 23–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-17336,, 2023.

Posters on site: Fri, 28 Apr, 10:45–12:30 | Hall X4

Chairpersons: Cosimo Brogi, Jannis Weimar, Konstantin Herbst
Pauli Väisänen, Ilya Usoskin, Riikka Kähkönen, Sergey Koldobskiy, and Kalevi Mursula

Galactic cosmic rays (GCR) are energetic particles originating from galactic or extra-galactic sources. When they arrive inside our heliosphere, they are modulated by the magnetic irregularities in the solar wind flow from the Sun, deflecting and slowing down the GCR particles. The level of this modulation varies according to solar activity, especially the 11-year solar cycle. The heliospheric modulation potential, denoted by ϕ, describes the average energy loss of particle in MV and quantifies the level of modulation. It can be determined using ground-based neutron monitor (NM) measurements of GCRs by multiple stations. Here we use the most recent version of the NM yield function and a RMSE-minimization method to compute a new and more accurate version of the modulation potential ϕ and station-specific scaling factors κ, which can be used to scale the level of count rates to the theoretical NM count rate given by the model. The new version offers daily resolution of ϕ and can be conveniently updated with new measurements, stations, or updates to datasets whenever they might occur. The scaling factors and their variation can be used to scale the data for physical analyses or to identify outliers, errors or physical phenomena which do not match with the model.

How to cite: Väisänen, P., Usoskin, I., Kähkönen, R., Koldobskiy, S., and Mursula, K.: Updated heliospheric modulation potential of cosmic rays and station-specific scaling factors for 1964-2021, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 23–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-11071,, 2023.

Bernd Heber, Sönke Burmeister, Hanna Giese, Konstantin Herbst, Lisa Romaneehsen, Carolin Schwerdt, Du Toit Strauss, and Michael Walter

Neutron monitors are ground-based devices that measure the secondary particle population, i.e., neutrons produced by, e.g., galactic cosmic rays (GCRs). Due to their functionality, they are integral counters whose flux is proportional to the variation of the input spectrum. However, the measured flux also depends on the geomagnetic position and the static pressure at the monitor's location. To better understand the instrument response, the Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, DESY Zeuthen, and the North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa, agreed on regular monitoring of the GCR intensity as a function of latitude, by installing a portable device aboard the German research vessel Polarstern in 2012. The vessel is ideally suited for this research campaign because it covers extensive geomagnetic latitudes (i.e., goes from the Arctic to the Antarctic) at least once per year. Since the installation aboard the vessel, 12 latitude scans were performed, allowing us to compute the so-called yield function by experimental means presented in this contribution.

The Kiel team received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 870405. The team would like to thank the crew of the Polarstern and the AWI for supporting our research campaign.

How to cite: Heber, B., Burmeister, S., Giese, H., Herbst, K., Romaneehsen, L., Schwerdt, C., Strauss, D. T., and Walter, M.: Measurements of cosmic rays by a mini neutron monitor aboard the German research vessel Polarstern, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 23–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-15343,, 2023.

Kateřina Podolská, Michal Kozubek, Miroslav Hýža, and Tereza Šindelářová

Cosmogenic radionuclide Beryllium 7Be concentration is primarily determined by the solar activity level and space weather conditions. The 7Be is generated by cosmic ray reactions in the stratosphere and in the upper troposphere, binds to atmospheric aerosols and is transported horizontally and vertically by wind and gravity. The highest values of cosmic radiation are observed during the solar minima because, at that time the penetrability of the Earth’s and Sun magnetosphere is greatest.

The concentrations of the radionuclide 7Be are reliable indicators of various atmospheric processes. In our work, we try to contribute to better understanding of the dynamics of processes by associating them with long-term trends of stratospheric temperature dynamics. We investigate the coupling of concentrations of the cosmogenic radionuclide 7Be in the longitudinal view during the years 1986–2022 (time series of activity concentration of 7Be in aerosols evaluated by the corresponding activity in aerosols on a weekly basis at the National Radiation Protection Institute Monitoring Section in Prague) to space weather parameters (Kp planetary index, disturbance storm time Dst, proton density, proton flux), and stratospheric dynamics parameters (temperature, zonal component of wind, O3). On short timescales the intensity of cosmic radiation decreases by few percent in several days. On a longer timescale the intensity of galactic cosmic rays is strongly influenced by the degree of solar activity and by variations in the geomagnetic field. This corresponds with findings that the zonal wind climatology differences were largest in the decades of 2000–2010 than between others observed decades.

How to cite: Podolská, K., Kozubek, M., Hýža, M., and Šindelářová, T.: The concentration of cosmogenic radionuclide 7Be from the perspective of space weather and long-term trends in the stratospheric temperature and wind, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 23–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-6045,, 2023.

Martin Schrön, Daniel Rasche, Jannis Weimar, Markus Köhli, Bertram Boehrer, Peter Dietrich, and Steffen Zacharias

Neutron monitors on the Earth’s surface are usually used to observe the dynamics of highly energetic cosmic-ray particles, assuming that local environmental conditions do not influence the measurement. In another young research field, low-energy cosmic-ray neutrons are used to monitor local dynamics of environmental water content. Water in soil, air, snow and vegetation determines the amount of ground albedo neutrons in the sensitive energy range from 1 eV to 100 keV. Plenty of small neutron detectors are operated on natural or agricultural sites all around the world. 

A major issue is the modulation of the neutron flux by the dynamics of incoming high-energy cosmogenic particles. Conventionally, independent data from neutron monitors are consulted to serve as a reference for the correction of the local detectors. However, the performance of this comparative correction approach is unreliable, because it does not account for geographical displacement, different energy windows of the detectors, or potential influence of atmospheric conditions on the referenced neutron monitor.

To test the traditional correction approaches for incoming cosmic radiation, air pressure, and air humidity, an experimental setup should avoid any influence of changes due to soil moisture. Therefore, a set of neutron detectors have been deployed in a buoy at the center of a lake for six months. The measurement period also included a Forbush Decrease in September, 2014. 

We found that the neutron signals correlated with air pressure, air humidity, and secondary cosmic radiation. The thermal neutron response to air humidity has been revealed to be different from the epithermal neutron response, while air pressure and incoming radiation similarly   influenced the thermal and epithermal signals. The results have been used to evaluate different existing strategies for air humidity correction of low-energy neutron data. Additionally, the potential effect of lake temperature on the thermal neutron count rate has been investigated. We have also analyzed the performance of the buoy  signal together with different neutron monitors in their capability to correct for the changes of incoming radiation and for the Forbush Decrease during the measurement period.

Overall, the study demonstrates how low-energy neutron detectors on a buoy  could be used to assess the influence of atmospheric and cosmogenic factors on the signal without the influence of soils. Despite the low count rate over water, the general principle could also serve as an alternative to remote neutron monitors as a more local reference signal at more comparable energies.

How to cite: Schrön, M., Rasche, D., Weimar, J., Köhli, M., Boehrer, B., Dietrich, P., and Zacharias, S.: Buoy-based detection of low-energy cosmic-ray neutrons to monitor the influence of atmospheric effects, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 23–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-15523,, 2023.

Jannis Weimar, Paul Schattan, Rebecca Gugerli, Benjamin Fersch, Darin Desilets, Martin Schrön, Markus Köhli, and Ulrich Schmidt

Cosmic-ray neutron sensors buried below a snow pack provide a passive and autonomous monitoring technique of snow water equivalent (SWE). The effective neutron flux is attenuated inside the snow volume resulting in an inverse relationship between neutron intensity and the water equivalent of the snow column above the sensor. Neutrons are moderated and absorbed within the snow. Simultaneously, highly energetic cosmic rays produce further neutrons via spallation and evaporation processes. A comprehensive assessment of the neutron flux therefore requires multi-particle simulations which involve all relevant incoming particle species and transient particles from cosmic-ray showers which play a crucial role in neutron production.

In our study, we used the Monte Carlo toolkit MCNP6 and validated its high-energy evaporation and spallation models against a measured data set of a neutron intensity profile in water. Based on that we fitted analytical functions to a large variety of simulation setups that describe the neutron intensity as a function of SWE and the moisture content of the soil below the sensor. Moreover, single-particle tracking revealed that the radial footprint of the method does not exceed few meters for detectors below thick snow layers. In the case of shallow snow, however, the diffusive long-range neutron flux in the atmosphere may penetrate through the snow pack to the buried sensor and thereby increases the influence of distant objects. Since the diffusive flux is further sensitive to the atmospheric water content, we developed an air humidity correction tailored to snow-buried neutron detectors.

In general, the study aims at a holistic understanding of neutron production and transport processes in snow and the adjacent soil and air volumes in order to improve SWE monitoring by buried cosmic-ray neutron sensors and compares the simulation results to field data.

How to cite: Weimar, J., Schattan, P., Gugerli, R., Fersch, B., Desilets, D., Schrön, M., Köhli, M., and Schmidt, U.: Cosmic-ray neutron production and propagation inside snow packs characterized by multi-particle Monte Carlo simulations, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 23–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-17487,, 2023.

Nora Krebs, Paul Schattan, Sascha Oswald, Martin Schrön, Martin Rutzinger, and Johann Stötter

Epithermal neutrons from cosmic ray showers are slowed by hydrogen atoms in snow. The drop in the fast neutron abundance in the atmosphere can be measured with above-ground Cosmic Ray Neutron Sensing (CRNS), allowing for an estimation of the Snow Water Equivalent (SWE). SWE is an important variable that has a substantial role in hydrological modelling and forecasts. However, up to now, SWE is conventionally measured at point-scale, which holds only little information about the average SWE in areas of heterogeneous terrain and where snow drift is a predominant process. CRNS offers the prospect of closing this gap by sensing neutrons within a footprint of 10–20 hectares. Currently, further investigations are needed to reduce the uncertainties in the signal conversion from neutron counts to SWE. In this study, we compare the daily signals of 65 CRNS stations across Europe with the corresponding Fractional Snow Cover (FSC) products from Sentinel-2 and MODIS (Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) with a 20 m and 500 m spatial resolution, respectively. By analysing the FSC products, we were able to identify characteristic ranges of neutron counts at snow presence (winter signals) and absence (summer signals). Comparing these ranges and their overlap among stations, we were able to distinguish typical signal properties of lowland, pre-Alpine and Alpine sites. We found that altitude-related properties, such as soil and vegetation characteristics govern the general neutron level at the study sites. Snowfall typically leads to a major drop in the neutron count rate that is superimposed on the summer neutron count level. High-altitude stations are generally characterized by low ranges of count rates in summer and by high ranges in winter, while low-altitude stations show a reversed trend. Our results demonstrate that the suitability of a station for SWE measurements with CRNS depends highly on the site-specific hydrogen pool fluctuations that can be linked to altitude. Especially in heterogeneous mountain terrain with low soil formation, the advantages of CRNS come into play and can provide a spatial average of SWE with low uncertainties.

How to cite: Krebs, N., Schattan, P., Oswald, S., Schrön, M., Rutzinger, M., and Stötter, J.: Cosmic rays on snow: A combined analysis of fractional snow cover derived from Sentinel-2, MODIS and Cosmic Ray Neutron Sensors across Europe, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 23–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-12576,, 2023.

Heye Bogena, Cosimo Brogi, Markus Köhli, Harrie-Jan Hendricks Franssen, Olga Dombrowski, and Johan Alexander Huisman

Soil moisture (SM) sensors are widely used to monitor soil water dynamics and support irrigation management with the aim of achieving better yields while reducing water consumption. Unfortunately, due to the small measuring volume of point-scale sensors, their soil moisture readings are often not representative for heterogeneous agricultural fields. Therefore, in such cases, sensors with larger sensing volume are needed to address spatially variable SM. A suitable technique is the cosmic ray neutron sensor (CRNS) as it integrates SM over a large volume with a radius of ~130-210 m and a penetration depth of ~15-85 cm. The CRNS method is based on the inverse relationship between measured environmental neutron density and the presence of hydrogen pools (e.g., SM) in the instrument surroundings. However, the ability of CRNS to accurately monitor areas with complex SM heterogeneities (e.g., small irrigated fields) and the influence of detector design were not yet investigated. In this study, we used the neutron transport model URANOS to simulate the effect of SM variations on a CRNS placed in the centre of squared irrigated fields (0.5 to 8 ha dimensions). For this, SM in the irrigated field and in the surrounding was altered between 0.05 and 0.50 cm3 cm-3 (500 simulations in total). In addition, we investigated the effect of employing high-density polyethylene (HDPE) moderators with different thickness (5 to 35 mm) as well as a 25 mm HDPE moderator with an additional gadolinium oxide thermal shielding. Results showed that, in heterogeneous SM scenarios, the 2 e-folding lengths footprint (R86) can become smaller or larger than what previous studies showed in homogeneous SM distributions. In addition, a thin HDPE moderator will result in relatively smaller R86 whereas thicker moderators and the addition of a thermal shielding will result in relatively larger R86. However, we found that a relatively small footprint is not directly related to a better monitoring of SM nearby the instrument. In fact, in all the investigated field dimensions, the 25mm HDPE moderator with gadolinium shielding showed the largest values of R86 but also the largest variations of detected neutrons with changing SM. In addition, such moderator showed the highest chances of detecting irrigation events that increase SM by 0.05 or 0.10 cm3 cm-3 in the irrigated area. Generally, detection was uncertain only for SM variations of 0.05 cm3 cm-3 in fields of 0.5 ha when initial SM was 0.02 cm3 cm-3 or higher. Although the results of this study suggest the feasibility of monitoring and informing irrigation with CRNS, we found that SM variations outside the irrigated field have a considerable influence on CRNS measurements. Especially in fields of 0.5 and 1 ha dimension, it can be impossible to distinguish whether a relative change in detected neutrons is due to irrigation or to SM variations in the surroundings. These results are relevant for irrigation monitoring and the combination of neutron transport simulations and real-world installations has the potential to establish CRNS as a decision support system for irrigation management.

How to cite: Bogena, H., Brogi, C., Köhli, M., Hendricks Franssen, H.-J., Dombrowski, O., and Huisman, J. A.: Effects of heterogeneous soil moisture distributions in cosmic-ray neutron sensing - the case of irrigation monitoring, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 23–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-3095,, 2023.

Samir K. Al-Mashharawi, Marcel M. El Hajj, Kasper Johansen, Matthew F. McCabe, and Susan Steele-Dunne

Biomass estimation is important in many applications, such as carbon sequestration and precision agriculture. Developing a reliable method for biomass estimation from satellite, airborne and near-surface remote sensing sensors is an ongoing task due to the large uncertainty in current methods, which are often related to sensor limitations. Indeed, signals from optical sensors and synthetic aperture radar at high and medium frequencies suffer from saturation issues at high biomass levels. The Cosmic-Ray Neutron Sensor (CRNS) is a new non-invasive near-surface sensor used primarily to estimate soil water content (SWC), but it has also shown potential for retrieving other hydrological and environmental parameters such as biomass water equivalent and snow depth. The CRNS detects and counts the number of neutrons controlled by hydrogen atoms in the soil, air just above the ground, and vegetation. Biomass attenuates the intensity of cosmic ray neutrons, hence the ability to estimate biomass from a CRNS. Recent studies have used CRNS measurements to estimate biomass changes in crop areas and forest stands, while the use of CRNSs in orchards is limited. The objective of this study is to explore the potential of two CRNSs to estimate the biomass variation in irrigated cherry and olive tree orchards. The olive tree orchard is located in an arid region in northern Saudi Arabia (plantation density of 1667 trees/hectare) with an average tree height of 3 m and canopy diameter of 2 m. The cherry field is located in southern France (plantation density of 260 trees/hectare) with an average tree height of 3.5 m and canopy diameter of 5.5 m. Several soil moisture probes recording soil water content (SWC) at 15-min intervals at both sites were installed at different depths within the CRNS footprint. SWC measurements were used to assess the variations in the sensitivity of CRNS to soil moisture with increasing biomass. Tree parameters (height, canopy width, canopy length, leaf area index, and diameter at breast height) were measured in situ to estimate biomass using allometric equations. In addition, repetitive Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) scanning was performed over the cherry field to detect canopy volume changes over time. The results showed that the CRNS is sensitive to SWC variation, and this sensitivity is controlled by biomass evolution, indicating that CNRS measurements can also be used to estimate biomass. The sensitivity of CRNS neutron counts to SWC in the early season (before blooming) was twice as high as that during the mid- and late growing seasons (maximum leaf cover). The Cornish Pasdy model­, which models the measured neutron counts as a function of SWC and biomass contribution, was calibrated and then inverted to estimate the biomass in the cherry and olive tree orchards. 

How to cite: Al-Mashharawi, S. K., El Hajj, M. M., Johansen, K., McCabe, M. F., and Steele-Dunne, S.: Sensitivity of the Cosmic Ray Neutron Sensor (CRNS) to Seasonal Biomass Dynamics in Cherry and Olive Orchards, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 23–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-6789,, 2023.

Katya Dimitrova Petrova, Lena Scheiffele, Lucile Verrot, Martin Schrön, and Josie Geris

Cosmic ray neutron sensor (CRNS) technology is becoming increasingly popular for monitoring volumetric soil water content (SWC) at the field (hectare) scale in a variety of environments. Applications include permanently installed (stationary) or the use of mobile (rover, trains, etc.) platforms. In agricultural settings, permanently installed CRNS have proven particularly useful for providing time series of footprint average SWC estimates. To derive the SWC product at a site, CRNS needs to be calibrated using gravimetric SWC, soil organic matter and bulk density (BD). Those variables may in the best case be derived from a large number of soil samples, collected ideally on multiple occasions and under a range of hydrometeorological conditions. Most CRNS applications use an average site-specific value of bulk density derived for a site from ≥1 field calibration and it is considered static over time.

However, while this is a safe assumption for many environments, in agricultural settings, management activities (e.g. tillage) may introduce substantial changes in BD over time. This may affect the accuracy of the CRNS SWC estimates, which in turn could affect management decisions (e.g. on irrigation) or modelling efforts, relying on these SWC inputs.

The importance of BD as a source of uncertainty in CRNS SWC estimation has been recognized with dedicated laboratory and neutron simulation experiments quantifying the effects. However, field-based studies are lacking. Therefore, the objective of this work is to quantify the impact and relevance of temporal variability in soil bulk density on the estimation of CRNS SWC in a variety of environments with different level of agricultural land use management. We used data from three sites (Scotland, Germany and China) with stationary CRNS, where BD was sampled on ≥3 or more occasions for sensor calibration. The sites display a varying intensity of land use management, cover different soil types and contrasting weather conditions. We quantify the differences in estimates of SWC by using the range of average BD values at a site and compare these differences to other sources of uncertainty (e.g. the integration time of neutron counts). We additionally consider existing theories on the interaction of neutrons and soil bulk density to evaluate the impact of BD changes. Finally, we make recommendations on when BD variability and thus its sampling over time may become important for the derivation of CRNS SWC outputs.

How to cite: Dimitrova Petrova, K., Scheiffele, L., Verrot, L., Schrön, M., and Geris, J.: Impact and relevance of soil density changes on cosmic-ray neutron sensing for soil water estimation, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 23–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-16004,, 2023.

Daniel Rasche, Jannis Weimar, Martin Schrön, Markus Köhli, Markus Morgner, Andreas Güntner, and Theresa Blume

Monitoring soil moisture at depths greater than one meter is generally challenging and often highly invasive as it requires opening large soil pits. As a result, this deeper vadose zone is often not monitored at all. On top of that, conventional soil moisture sensors usually have only a small measurement volume. On the other hand, soil moisture estimates derived from above-ground Cosmic-Ray Neutron Sensing (CRNS) are a representative average over an area of several hectares but only of the upper half meter of the soil. To this day, it is commonly believed that cosmic radiation cannot be used to monitor soil water content below this depth. As a consequence, large parts of the root-zone and deeper unsaturated zone have remained outside the observational window of the method. The estimation of soil moisture in greater depths typically requires additional invasive measurements, other active geophysical methods, or mathematical models which extrapolate surface soil moisture observations.

Against this background, we investigated the possibility of using passive detection of cosmogenic neutrons in existing monitoring infrastructure (e.g. groundwater wells). We hypothesized that this method provides a larger measurement volume than traditional techniques based on active neutron probes while requiring less safety restrictions.

Our neutron transport simulations demonstrated that this downhole-CRNS technique would be sensitive enough to detect changes of water content in depths down to 5 meters and above, depending on the temporal resolution of measurements. The simulations also revealed a large measurement radius of several tens of cm depending on the soil moisture content and soil bulk density.

From the theoretical results we derived a functional relationship between soil moisture and detectable neutrons and tested it in a groundwater observation well. Additional installations of supporting soil moisture sensors have been used to validate the model predictions as well as the neutron signals monitored by the CRNS detector. The study demonstrated the general applicability of downhole Cosmic-Ray Neutron Sensing for the estimation of soil moisture in greater depths and at temporal resolution of two days.

How to cite: Rasche, D., Weimar, J., Schrön, M., Köhli, M., Morgner, M., Güntner, A., and Blume, T.: Monitoring soil moisture in the deeper vadose zone: A new approach using groundwater observation wells and cosmic ray neutrons, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 23–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-11326,, 2023.

Posters virtual: Fri, 28 Apr, 10:45–12:30 | vHall ESSI/GI/NP

Chairperson: Konstantin Herbst
Tigran Karapetyan, Ashot Chilingarian, and Balabek Sargsyan

Experiments during recent years with SEVAN detectors on mountain tops in Armenia, Slovakia, and Bulgaria reveal the broad potential of SEVAN detectors; The SEVAN detector on Lomnicky Stit (Slovakia) measured the largest thunderstorm ground enhancements (TGE), with particle fluxes exceeding the background 100-times. With muon and gamma ray fluxes, the maximum values of the potential difference in thunderclouds were measured, equal to 350 MV at Mt. Aragats, and 500 MV at the sharp peak of Lomnicky Stit. In Nov 2019, SEVAN detectors were installed at DESY (Hamburg and Zeuthen sites). Fluxes of electrons, photons, and muons and weather parameters are continuously monitored at all sites (at different latitudes, longitudes, and altitudes). To fully exploit the scientific potential of the SEVAN detectors, in 2023 is planned to install a new detector in the Umwelt-Forschungs-Station (UFS, Schneefernerhaus, 2650 m asl) near the top of the Zugspitze (2962 m), a site with a long history of atmospheric research. The new SEVAN module will be compact (SEVAN-light), and will enable the energy spectra measurements in the range from 0.3 to 50 MeV, allowing unambiguously separating Radon progeny gamma radiation from runaway electron-photon avalanches.

How to cite: Karapetyan, T., Chilingarian, A., and Sargsyan, B.: SEVAN European particle detector network for the atmospheric, solar and space weather studies, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 23–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-11905,, 2023.