Spatiotemporal variations of soil surface roughness from in-situ laser scanning

Soeren-Nils Haubrock*, Matthias Kuhnert, Sabine Chabrillat, Andreas Guentner, Hermann Kaufmann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Citations (Scopus)


Microtopography and roughness are highly dynamic properties of the soil surface and important factors governing surface runoff and erosion processes. While various remote sensing technologies were successfully applied for topography measurements at different spatial scales, there is a lack of field studies that collected systematically microtopography data over long observation periods. In this paper an approach to measure and quantify surface roughness in the field based on laser scanning technologies is presented. Between June 2004 and November 2005 97 in-situ measurements were conducted in a test site with two different sandy substrates in vegetation-free conditions. Two-dimensional high-resolution (1 mm) datasets where generated for eight micro erosion plots of 0.25 to 2.9 m(2) in size. Dynamics and pattern formation were quantified for surface roughness and surface height changes. Roughness patterns at different scales were analyzed by local roughness indices using sliding windows of 3 to 55 mm in size. Results show strong spatial and temporal dynamics in surface roughness as well as substrate-specific variations. Temporal roughness variations could be detected and were linked to precipitation patterns. The methods presented in this paper are considered suitable to generate high-resolution datasets on spatiotemporal and multi-scale microtopography patterns and to advance the understanding of surface processes at small scales in natural environments. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-139
Number of pages12
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2009


  • Microtopography
  • Surface roughness
  • Substrate movement
  • Soil erosion
  • Accumulation
  • Laser scanning


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