Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Civil Engineering

First Advisor's Name

Hector R. Fuentes

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Walter Z. Tang

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Xia Jin

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Shimon Wdowinksi

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


civil engineering

Date of Defense



Spatial-temporal distribution of soil moisture in the vadose zone is an important aspect of the hydrological cycle that plays a fundamental role in water resources management, including modeling of water flow and mass transport. The vadose zone is a critical transfer and storage compartment, which controls the partitioning of energy and mass linked to surface runoff, evapotranspiration and infiltration. This dissertation focuses on integrating hydraulic characterization methods with remote sensing technologies to estimate the soil moisture distribution by modeling the spatial coverage of soil moisture in the horizontal and vertical dimensions with high temporal resolution.

The methodology consists of using satellite images with an ultrafine 3-m resolution to estimate soil surface moisture content that is used as a top boundary condition in the hydrologic model, SWAP, to simulate transport of water in the vadose zone. To demonstrate the methodology, herein developed, a number of model simulations were performed to forecast a range of possible moisture distributions in the Everglades National Park (ENP) vadose zone. Intensive field and laboratory experiments were necessary to prepare an area of interest (AOI) and characterize the soils, and a framework was developed on ArcGIS platform for organizing and processing of data applying a simple sequential data approach, in conjunction with SWAP.

An error difference of 3.6% was achieved when comparing radar backscatter coefficient (σ0) to surface Volumetric Water Content (VWC); this result was superior to the 6.1% obtained by Piles during a 2009 NASA SPAM campaign. A registration error (RMSE) of 4% was obtained between model and observations. These results confirmed the potential use of SWAP to simulate transport of water in the vadose zone of the ENP.

Future work in the ENP must incorporate the use of preferential flow given the great impact of macropore on water and solute transport through the vadose zone. Among other recommendations, there is a need to develop procedures for measuring the ENP peat shrinkage characteristics due to changes in moisture content in support of the enhanced modeling of soil moisture distribution.





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