Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Latent Heat and Soil Types
Name: Matt
Status: Educator
Grade: A-Level
Location: N/A
Country: England
Date: December 2007

What are the average latent heat levels for the following soil types: clay, sand, and silt. My study is focusing on sites with a northern European climate and figures in MJ/m3 would be appreciated.


Unfortunately I cannot answer your question directly because latent heat flux is dependent not only on soil type but on soil moisture content, intensity of solar radiation impinging on the soil, the temperature of the soil, the composition of the soil (soils are not generally one pure type, but a mixture of types), soil texture, and how much surface litter and vegetation is above the soil surface.

Please excuse me if I repeat things below that you already know, but we have a wide audience that may not know the following.

One thing that can be said is that soil type does affect evaporation if all other things are equal. A sandy soil does not hold water nearly as well as a clay, the water tending to drain out of the sandy soil whereas clay soils tend to be able to hold more water and hold it more tightly because the clay particles are smaller and have smaller spaces between them. Therefore, it is generally more difficult to evaporate water from a clay soil than from a sandy soil.

As the size of soil particles becomes smaller, the porosity of the soil becomes larger (indicating the total amount of "air" space between soil particles), in the order of sand, loam, silt, clay. The larger the porosity of the soil, the more tightly water is held between the soil particles, and the more difficult it is for water to drain out of the soil and for it to be evaporated. Organic matter in the soil further helps to absorb water and keep it in the soil, so the extent of organic content is also important in water retention and evaporation.

David R. Cook
Climate Research Section
Environmental Science Division
Argonne National Laboratory

Click here to return to the Environmental and Earth Science Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory