‘Dual-reference’ method for high-precision infrared measurement of leaf surface temperature under field conditions

Jonathan D. Muller, Eyal Rotenberg*, Fyodor Tatarinov, Irina Vishnevetsky, Tamir Dingjan, Abraham Kribus, Dan Yakir

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Temperature is a key control over biological activities from the cellular to the ecosystem scales. However, direct, high-precision measurements of surface temperature of small objects, such as leaves, under field conditions with large variations in ambient conditions remain rare. Contact methods, such as thermocouples, are prone to large errors. The use of noncontact remote-sensing methods, such as thermal infrared measurements, provides an ideal solution, but their accuracy has been low (c. 2°C) owing to the necessity for corrections for material emissivity and fluctuations in background radiation Lbg. A novel ‘dual-reference’ method was developed to increase the accuracy of infrared needle-leaf surface temperature measurements in the field. It accounts for variations in Lbg and corrects for the systematic camera offset using two reference plates. We accurately captured surface temperature and leaf-to-air temperature differences of needle-leaves in a forest ecosystem with large diurnal and seasonal temperature fluctuations with an uncertainty of ± 0.23°C and ± 0.28°C, respectively. Routine high-precision leaf temperature measurements even under harsh field conditions, such as demonstrated here, opens the way for investigating a wide range of leaf-scale processes and their dynamics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2535-2546
Number of pages12
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2021


FundersFunder number
Israel Science Foundation1976/17


    • background thermal radiation
    • infrared camera
    • infrared thermal sensing
    • leaf temperature
    • leaf-to-air temperature difference
    • measurement method
    • thermal radiation


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