Research Theme – Soil Moisture Content

Soil moisture content is the most critical parameter in determining the releasibility of asbestos fibres from soil, and yet there is very little understanding of what typical UK soil moisture levels are, or how they vary by region and season.

Simon Cole,  who leads SoBRA‘s asbestos in soil sub-group, indicated (at CIRIA’s recent conference on Risk Assessment and managment of Asbestos in made ground) that this research need is yet to be addressed.

Research into soil moisture content is of wider interest to understanding climate change and improve weather forecasting with NASA launching last year, the first Earth satellite designed to collect global observations of soil moisture.

In the UK  another research technique is being developed through COSMOS-UK which uses a sensor that exploits cosmic-rays to measure soil moisture over an area of roughly 40 hectares (about 100 acres). These sensors are being used by The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology to create a long-term network of soil moisture monitoring stations for the UK, with funding from the Natural Environment Research Council. The network will provide near-real time soil moisture data for use in a variety of applications including farming, water resources, flood forecasting and land-surface modelling.

The question is how to do we bring the research community and industry led intiatives such as the work by SoBRA and JIWG together.  GEMs is keen to see this gap between research and practical application bridged more easily through posting research needs.  So this is a call for assistance what could you do to help?  Could you provide soil moisture content data?  Do you already have a research programme covering this theme? Or are you an organisation who could fund postgraduate research to help SoBRA help us deliver more robust  asbestos in soils risk assessments? If you think you could make a difference why not contact us.