Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

The soil electric potential signature of summer drought


During the period from late April to early August, a timeseries of soil electric potential measurements in the upper 15 cm of mineral soil were collected daily at the University of Michigan Botanical Gardens using an automatic data collection system. These data, after conversion to a surrogate measure of electrolyte concentration, provide a unique record of the 1988 summer drought in a continental location. The effects of rainfall-dewfall electrolyte dilution, evaporation-induced electrolyte concentration and upward-downward soil water advection are well-illustrated in the data. These observations demonstrate that soil electric potential is an easily measured variable of high information content, especially when collected with other system-linked environmental data.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Gross, G. W., 1967: Freezing potentials in the system H2O — NH3 — CO2 at controlled concentrations.J. Atmos. Sci. 28, 1005–1014.

  2. Hausenbuiller, R. L., 1985:Soil Science: Principles and Practices, Third Edition. Dubuque: Wm. C. Brown, 610 pp.

  3. National Climate Data Center: Climatological data, Michigan, June 1988. Volume 103, Number 6.

  4. Outcalt, S. I., Gray, D. H., Benninghoff, W. S., 1989: Soil temperature and electric potential during diurnal and seasonal freeze-thaw.Cold Regions Sciences and Engineering (in press).

  5. Parameswaran, V. R., Mackay, J. R., 1983: Field measurements of electrical freezing potentials in permafrost areas. In: Proceedings, Fourth International Conference on Permafrost, 17–22 July 1983, Fairbanks, AK, 962–967.

  6. Prutton, C. F., Maron, S. H., 1951:Fundamental Principles of Physical Chemistry. New York: MacMillian Company, 803 pp.

  7. Williams, P. J., 1982:The Surface of the Earth. New York: Longman, 212 pp.

  8. Yarkin, I. G., 1973: Effect of natural electric potentials on water migration in freezing soils. In: Permafrost: U.S.S.R. Contribution to the Second International Conference, pp. 359–361.

Download references

Author information

Additional information

With 4 Figures

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Outcalt, S.I., Hinkel, K.M. The soil electric potential signature of summer drought. Theor Appl Climatol 41, 63–68 (1990).

Download citation


  • Soil Water
  • Advection
  • Mineral Soil
  • Electric Potential
  • Electrolyte Concentration