Citizen science – part 2

This week, we are kicking off season two of our citizen science campaign! 3000 die-hard participants (from the 4400 we had last year), will again install a garden dagger in their garden to monitor extreme weather events across summer.

So how is the weather looking at the start of this second season? For this, we can take a look at the sensor in the garden of CuriousNoses scientist Jonas Lembrechts, who keeps track of temperature and soil moisture in his backyard all year round (originally posted in Dutch on the website of the project).

‘This particular sensor works offline, which means that it has no connection to the Internet of Things but I have to go and read it periodically with a special device to retrieve the measurement data,’ Jonas said. ‘This kind of offline TMS-4 sensor is also used in the international SoilTemp network I am involved in. They collect climate data in the most remote places, from Congo to Antarctica. But also in my garden!

So during the past winter months, the sensor has been faithfully monitoring the temperature and soil moisture in his garden in Zemst. If we look back at the first three months of this year, we see that they were quite similar in terms of temperatures to what we got at the beginning of last year. Remarkable is the very warm New Year’s period at the beginning of 2022, where the soil temperature rose to as much as 9°C.

Temperature patterns in the soil in one garden in Zemst, comparing 2021 (black) with 2022 (orange)

Despite the dry and sunny weather of recent weeks, soil moisture also still seems to be at a reasonable level for the season. This is largely due to the fact that our lawns do not yet consume much water in early spring, thus tapping much fewer of the resource. Nevertheless, the stubbornly declining green line does stand out in the figure: the soil has not received a solid rainfall for a few weeks now. No surprise: March was record-breakingly sunny in Belgium!

Soil moisture patterns in the soil in one garden in Zemst, comparing 2021 (black) with 2022 (green). Note the steady decline throughout March 2022, a record-breakingly sunny month

“We are thus starting this measuring season in my lawn with a healthy soil moisture,” Jonas explains. “But since we are measuring the moisture in the upper part of the soil here, these values can change very quickly in a hot, dry summer.” For the soil moisture in their own garden, participants will have to wait a little longer: the soil sensor always needs to settle for a few weeks to get good contact with the soil.

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