Brazilian Experimental datasets for MUlti-Scale interactions in the critical zone under Extreme Drought (BEMUSED)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Civil Engineering


This IOF proposal, entitled "Brazilian Experimental datasets for MUlti-Scale interactions in the critical zone under Extreme Drought" (BEMUSED), is a partnership between the University of Bristol (UoB) and University of Sao Paulo (USP) [RCUK-FAPESP Lead Agency Agreement is applied]. BEMUSED recognizes that a more scale-integrated view of the role of soil moisture in the critical zone (the earth's outer layer from vegetation canopy to the soil and groundwater that sustains life) is of great importance in South America. Soil moisture is a key environmental variable of the hydrological cycle connecting the rapid changes in atmospheric conditions near the surface with slower subsurface processes. However, our understanding of key soil moisture controlling factors has been limited due to a lack of soil moisture measurements directly compatible to so-called "hyper-resolution" hydrological models. Recently, the development of new Cosmic-Ray Sensors (CRS) technology for monitoring soil moisture at unprecedented sub-kilometer scales provides the missing link between traditional point-scale sensors and large-scale satellite remote sensing products. In recent years, networks of CRS have been established worldwide but not yet for tropical hydrological studies (e.g., in South America). In addition, limited representation of key hydrological processes (including subsurface-surface interactions) in current Earth System Models poses extreme challenges for prediction and adaptation strategies. This is important for predicting extreme events such as droughts, especially in data scarce regions such as in tropical areas. The recent (2013-2014) extreme drought event that occurred in southeast Brazil severely affected water resources in the region including the Cantareira Reservoir System (one of the largest in the world) which supplies water to more than 9 million people in Sao Paulo metropolitan area. Lack of accurately representing the role of soil moisture in connecting the subsurface to surface water dynamics will continue to undermine our predictability skills, consequently providing sub-optimal information for adaptation strategies in important economic-social region in South America and globally.

This opportunity is very timely because it will allow both groups to mutually exploit the hydrological model developments from our current NERC New Investigator "A MUlti-scale Soil moisture - Evapotranspiration Dynamics study" (AMUSED) project using locally available data from an experimental catchment in southeast Brazil which has recently experienced an extreme drought event. This provides a unique opportunity to further evaluate our current model developments (i.e., preferential water flow in soils, and groundwater dynamics) in a challenging tropical region. Also importantly, BEMUSED will allow the UoB to engage in knowledge and skills transfer associated with the use of CRS particularly in a tropical South America region where it has never been tested. A CRS is scheduled to be installed at the experimental catchment in 2018, hence we propose to test our CRS deployment/calibration guidelines and data processing approaches, developed under AMUSED, in tropical South America for the first time, and further engage with AMUSED's original Pathways to Impact activities in promoting knowledge transfer and dissemination of new measurement technology by offering a short-course on "Soil Moisture Measurements using Cosmic-Ray Sensors" in Brazil. Finally, a workshop will be held in Brazil to discuss on strategies for improvement of Brazil's national capability for large-scale hydrometeorological monitoring and modeling with the aim to enhance response to future hydroclimatic variability and natural hazards.

Planned Impact

The impacts from this IOF project, entitled "Brazilian Experimental datasets for MUlti-Scale interactions in the critical zone under Extreme Drought" (BEMUSED), are summarized as follows:

Societal and economic impacts:
The general public is directly affected by hydrometeorological events such as floods, droughts, and extreme weather. In Brazil, extreme events have devastating socio-economic impacts, especially in densely-populated regions such as southeast Brazil, which relies immensely on water resources for domestic, agriculture, and industry. BEMUSED will benefit government agencies, industry, and policy/decision makers, stakeholders and public in general in providing a better understanding of soil moisture dynamics using new technology and better representation of key hydrological processes in numerical models. Improving predictability skills of extreme events such as droughts can significantly affect how water resources are monitored and how adaptation strategies are put in effect in this sensitive socio-economic region. This will allow for better water resources management and adaptation strategies (link to government agencies, industry, policy/decision makers, and stakeholders) due to extreme events which directly impact the society and economy of the region (link to general public).

University of Sao Paulo (USP; International Partner): USP will benefit from data-knowledge exchange and improved understanding of the use of new Cosmic-Ray Sensor (CRS) technology for hydrological studies in South America for the first time. Training provided in BEMUSED to Brazilian early-career researchers will allow the technology to be disseminated in Brazil and South America, resulting in future (multi-national) collaboration. Modeling developments and testing under BEMUSED will also benefit our partners. The adopted land surface model in BEMUSED (the Joint UK Land Environment Simulator, JULES), in its original version, is the same currently implemented in the Brazilian Regional Atmospheric System (BRAMS) mesoscale atmospheric numerical model used at USP. In addition, the BRAMS is one of the main operational models used by Brazilian National Center for Weather and Climate Studies (CPTEC) at the internationally-recognized Institute for Space Research (INPE), and used by the Center for Monitoring of Natural Disasters (CEMADEN). Hence, improvements obtained with BEMUSED pilot study can quickly reach national level impact given its relevance to both operational centers.

UK Met Office (UKMO) and Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH): Model's of Earth's weather and climate require accurate fluxes (e.g., momentum, energy, water) across the land-atmosphere interface to solve the equations of atmospheric physics and dynamics. Improvements on how soil moisture is simulated by the JULES model, and its interaction with a newly implemented preferential flow and groundwater parameterizations in the model, will ultimately make significant impact on the overall JULES development strategy by UKMO and CEH, including recent efforts towards the UK Earth System Modeling capabilities. The UKMO and CEH will also benefit from a comprehensive evaluation of JULES under extreme drought conditions compared to a suite of ground-based observations from (usually) data-scarce regions.

BEMUSED PI: Of importance, the nature of this funding will ultimately impact the project PI of this proposal by ensuring the appropriate financial support to expand his research portfolio, currently established with his New Investigator grant, to catchment scale studies in South America, enhancing his international reputation and increasing his network of collaboration significantly. This will allow the PI to further establish himself as a researcher leader in the subject in future years.


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Description We have found that the impact of using local data such as soil and land cover maps to better condition our model results is considerable. We are now finishing up the model simulations for drought analysis in the southeast Brazil region. We have also identified different clusters of sub-regions that have responded differently with regards to the 2013-2014 drought.
UPDATE (Mar/2021): We are making final progress on the modeling papers (1) using the JULES model and (2) developing a more parsimonious/simple model. With regards to field work proposed in Brazil using the cosmic-ray sensors, and the comparison with our UK sites, major delays have occurred due to covid-19 pandemic preventing any fieldwork to take place.
UPDATE (Mar/2022): Due to impacts of COVID, the originally hired PDRA was unable to finish their experiments using JULES. With ongoing collaboration with the University of São Paulo and other Brazilian institutions we are about to finalize the development of a parsimonious model (and its publication).
Exploitation Route Publications referring directly to the impacts of the drought in the region. Cosmic-ray soil moisture data have already been available since 2011 as part of the COSMOS network. Data specifically from Brazil cannot be made available publicly due to contractual restrictions that our collaborators from Brazil have with other agencies/institutions.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment

Description NI NERC-FAPESP: COSMIC-SWAMP, IoT Enabled Cosmic Ray Sensors for Irrigation Monitoring
Amount £77,760 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/W004364/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2021 
End 07/2023
Title Cosmic-Ray Sensor PYthon tool (crspy) 
Description The Cosmic Ray neutron Sensor Python tool (crspy, pronounced "crispy"): is an open source tool written in Python that has been developed to facilitate the processing of the global networks of cosmic-ray neutron sensor data in a uniform and harmonized way for a number of environmental applications. The tool is designed to allow the easy implementation of the most up to date correction factors and calibration processes to any cosmic-ray neutron sensor site globally. Although crspy is primarily designed with the intention of correcting for multiple sites, the tool is also versatile enough to process individual sites. Finally, crspy makes use of a metadata approach that incorporates key information from recent global gridded databases publicly available. Note: The selection of type of research tool from Researchfish only gives options related to biological/human laboratory activities. I have selected the closest possible match. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2021 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The crspy tool was used to produce the datasets from North American sites as well as from three UK sites maintained by the University of Bristol, and used in the project. The development of crspy was carried out with direct communication with Hydroinnova LLC (cosmic-ray neutron sensor manufacturers) to conform with the latest technological developments of the sensor (e.g., data correction steps). Parts of the crspy tool are now being trialled by the Australian CosmOz network maintained by CSIRO. 
Title CEDA AMUSED datatset 
Description Dataset from AMUSED three stations located at the Sheepdrove Organic Farm. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The data has just recently been published. We expect the free availability of the data will impact their use by other institutions and agencies (e.g., CEH or UK Met Office). 
Title Cosmic-ray soil moisture data from Brazil 
Description The dataset is part of the original COSMOS network which the PI helped established and continue with the efforts to promote/establish a "global COSMOS" network. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2011 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Data are available publicly and openly 
Title Joint UK Land Environment Simulator (JULES) with explicit representation of groundwater and aquifers 
Description As part of this research, we were the first group to fully implement an explicit groundwater/aquifer parameterization into the JULES land surface model used extensively by the CEH and MetOffice (as well as other groups nationally and internationally) for weather and climate modeling. We have developed the theory and the implementation of the model. We are currently working (informally) with MetOffice colleagues to test the model for improving flood predictions in the UK. The model version has not been uploaded to the main JULES database but we are keen to share the model with others, which we have done so in the past. Currently, the best way is to contact us directly for a copy of the model. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact With this explicit representation of groundwater/aquifer in JULES, the model was able to much better represent the soil water dynamics as well as other hydrologically relevant fluxes in a regional simulation in the UK 
Description Brisstol-UFMT 
Organisation Federal University of Mato Grosso
Country Brazil 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Visiting PhD student from UFMT to work on hydroclimatology/hydrometeorology research in Brazil, including hydrological extremes such as drought, as well as land cover changes. Contribution includes academic supervision, research design, access to local data
Collaborator Contribution Visiting PhD student from UFMT to work on hydroclimatology/hydrometeorology research in Brazil, including hydrological extremes such as drought, as well as land cover changes. Contribution includes lead researcher on project, interactions between UFMT and Bristol, manuscript in preparation, PhD thesis chapter
Impact PhD Thesis chapter Manuscript under preparation (target date Dec/2020)
Start Year 2019
Description Bristol-Freiburg 
Organisation Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaborative research involving the use of the data produced under NERC AMUSED project and model developments made under NERC AMUSED and BEMUSED projects.
Collaborator Contribution Collaborative fieldwork campaigns, additional equipment co-located at the same UK sites for complementary research.
Impact Berthelin, R., Rinderer, M., Andreo, B., Baker, A., Kilian, D., Leonhardt, G., Lotz, A., Lichtenwoehrer, K., Mudarra, M., Padilla, I. Y., Pantoja Agreda, F., Rosolem, R., Vale, A., and Hartmann, A.: A soil moisture monitoring network to characterize karstic recharge and evapotranspiration at five representative sites across the globe, Geosci. Instrum. Method. Data Syst., 9, 11-23,, 2020.
Start Year 2018
Description Bristol-Hydroinnova collaboration 
Organisation Dearne Valley College
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are testing the use of new innovative cosmic-ray neutron sensors to measure soil moisture at field scale (600m diameter). Our findings related to the use of these sensors in more humid environment such as in the UK.
Collaborator Contribution Hydroinnova LLC provides technical support and recommendations on the use of the sensors. They also provide basic support for data transmission (via Iridium satellite) to our database website. A Hydroinnova representative also participated in our pilot fieldwork activities with students and researchers at our AMUSED site.
Impact The interaction with Hydroinnova LLC has ensured the high-quality of our soil moisture measurements using cosmic-ray sensors. Real-time data from AMUSED sites can now be visualized at (username = amused, password = amused). Some data can be made available upon request or online. We will be working on processing the first year of data during the second year of the AMUSED project.
Start Year 2015
Description Bristol-UFMS 
Organisation Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul
Country Brazil 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaboration on the evaluation of potential national scale hydrological products in the Brazil from future climate projections from both global and regional climate models
Collaborator Contribution Collaboration on the evaluation of potential national scale hydrological products in the Brazil from future climate projections from both global and regional climate models
Impact 1 poster at AGU Fall Meeting 2018 1 manuscript current under review
Start Year 2018
Description Bristol-UFZ Leipzig 
Organisation Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Department Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Ongoing collaboration between research group in Bristol and UFZ Leipzig on the use of mobile cosmic-ray sensors. Bristol hosted UFZ researcher to carry out cosmic-ray rover surveys in our experimental area as well as within our catchment of interest.
Collaborator Contribution 6-month visit by Dr Martin Schron to Bristol University to carry out mobile cosmic-ray soil moisture surveys in our experimental "AMUSED" sites.
Impact One manuscript (Schron et al. 2017) has been published. One, "The Cosmic-Ray Neutron Rover - Mobile Surveys of Field Soil Moisture and the Influence of Roads" is currently under review in Water Resources Research (accepted with moderate revisions). There are at least two manuscripts under preparation from this collaboration.
Start Year 2016
Description Bristol-USP 
Organisation Universidade de São Paulo
Country Brazil 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Brazilian collaborator under NERC BEMUSED.
Collaborator Contribution Host visits to discuss research progress, site investigation, and supporting data for modeling experiments.
Impact 1 poster and two oral presentation at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2018
Start Year 2018
Description University of Arizona 
Organisation University of Arizona
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Use of additional data from tropical sites in Brazil and from the Biosphere2 facility from the University of Arizona to understand how climate change (drier+hotter) may affect the eco-hydrology of the region. Our group provided the quality-controlled data for the study as well as some of the analyses.
Collaborator Contribution The first author led the research in combining the different datasets, including sites outside of Brazil (but still within the tropical regions). The partner led the main analyses with direct input from Bristol and other local partners in Brazil.
Impact The main output is a Nature Plants paper well received by the community in general (
Start Year 2019
Description Inited talk at United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency Meeting on the Use of Cosmic-Ray Neutron Sensor for Irrigation and Extreme Weather Events 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Expert panel meeting to discuss wider use of applications involving the use of cosmic-ray neutron sensor in agricultural, hydrological, and environmental sciences with focus on developing countries. Personal invitation due to expertise on sensor technology and hydrometeorology.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description Participation in an activity, workshop or similar - Session Proposal at European Geosciences Union 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Session proposal on "Cosmic rays across scales and disciplines: the new frontier in environmental research" (GI2.7/AS4.16/CL5.23/EMRP4.8/HS11.13/PS4.7) presented as chair.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018