Parameter sensitivity of soil moisture retrievals from airborne L-band radiometer measurements in SMEX02

Global Hydrology & Climate Center, Universities Space Res. Assoc., Huntsville, AL, USA
IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing (Impact Factor: 3.47). 08/2005; DOI: 10.1109/TGRS.2005.848416
Source: DBLP

ABSTRACT Over the past two decades, successful estimation of soil moisture has been accomplished using L-band microwave radiometer data. However, remaining uncertainties related to surface roughness and the absorption, scattering, and emission by vegetation must be resolved before soil moisture retrieval algorithms can be applied with known and acceptable accuracy using satellite observations. Surface characteristics are highly variable in space and time, and there has been little effort made to determine the parameter estimation accuracies required to meet a given soil moisture retrieval accuracy specification. This study quantifies the sensitivities of soil moisture retrieved using an L-band single-polarization algorithm to three land surface parameters for corn and soybean sites in Iowa, United States. Model sensitivity to the input parameters was found to be much greater when soil moisture is high. For even moderately wet soils, extremely high sensitivity of retrieved soil moisture to some model parameters for corn and soybeans caused the retrievals to be unstable. Parameter accuracies required for consistent estimation of soil moisture in mixed agricultural areas within retrieval algorithm specifications are estimated. Given the spatial and temporal variability of vegetation and soil conditions for agricultural regions it seems unlikely that, for the single-frequency, single-polarization retrieval algorithm used in this analysis, the parameter accuracy requirements can be met with current satellite-based land surface products. We conclude that for regions with substantial vegetation, particularly where the vegetation is changing rapidly, any soil moisture retrieval algorithm that is based on the physics and parameterizations used in this study will require multiple frequencies, polarizations, or look angles to produce stable, reliable soil moisture estimates.

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    ABSTRACT: Experimental campaigns with airborne and satellite microwave sensors have been carried out on an agricultural area in Northern Italy with the main purpose of gathering a suitable set of data to validate two operational algorithms developed to retrieve soil moisture from passive and active microwave sensors at different spatial scales. The algorithms will be used in a pilot project based on the use of Earth observation data in forecasting and monitoring the risk of floods and landslides. Radiometric data have been collected with the airborne IFAC instruments and the AMSR-E, while ENVISAT/ASAR images have been acquired for high resolution estimate of soil moisture at field scale.
    Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium,2009 IEEE International,IGARSS 2009; 08/2009
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    ABSTRACT: Airborne L-band data from the Australian National Airborne Field Experiment 2005 (NAFE '05) field campaign were used to investigate the influence of fractional forest cover on soil moisture retrievals from heterogeneous (grass/forest) pixels. This study is, to our knowledge, the first to use experimental data on this subject and was done in view of the SMOS mission, in order to contribute to calibration/validation studies and the analysis of heterogeneous surfaces. Because the multi-angle observations were contained in swaths, swaths were used instead of pixels as the basic surface unit in this study. Simultaneous retrievals of soil moisture (SM) and vegetation optical depth (τNAD) were undertaken by inversion of the L-MEB zero-order radiative transfer model. This was done for two different retrieval configurations, the first consisting of swath-effective values of SM and τNAD and the second consisting of values of SM and τNAD for the non-forested (i.e. grass) fraction of the swath, with forest emission known from forward modelling. Model inputs for non-retrieved parameters were either default values taken from the literature or site- and time-specific values obtained from observations of nearby homogeneous swaths gathered during the same flight. The main focus of this study was on retrieval behaviour for various soil moisture conditions and forest fractions. Area-averaged retrieval results were generally very reasonable for both retrieval configurations. When retrieving swath-effective values of SM and τNAD, τNAD showed an increased overestimation with increased forest fraction. Highest retrieved values of SM were found at intermediate values of forest fraction. The results show the difficulty in flagging upper limits of pixel forest fraction during soil moisture retrievals, besides the fact that erroneous parameter values can lead to high errors in retrieved SM, especially in wet conditions. This study is the first to give a realistic idea of the errors and uncertainties involved in soil moisture retrievals from partly forested swaths, and as such will contribute to a better understanding of SMOS calibration/validation issues.
    Remote Sensing of Environment. 01/2010;
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    ABSTRACT: In the near future, data from two microwave remote sensors at L-band will enable estimation of near-surface soil moisture. The European Space Agency's Soil Moisture and Salinity Mission (SMOS) launched in November 2009, and NASA is developing a new L-band soil moisture mission named Soil Moisture Active/Passive (SMAP). Soil moisture retrieval theory is well-established, but many details of its application, including the effects of spatial scale, are still being studied. To support these two L-band missions, studies are needed to improve our understanding of the various error sources associated with retrieval of soil moisture from satellite sensors. The purpose of this study is to quantify the magnitude of the scaling error created by the existence of sub-footprint scale variability in soil and vegetation properties, which have nonlinear relationships with emitted microwave energy. The scaling error is related to different functional relationships between surface microwave emissivity and soil moisture that exist for different soils and land cover types within a satellite footprint. We address this problem using single-frequency, single-polarization passive L-band microwave simulations for an Upper Midwest agricultural region in the United States. Making several simplifying assumptions, the analysis performed here helps provide guidance and define limits for future mission requirements by indicating hydrological and landscape conditions under which large errors are expected, and other conditions that are more conducive to accurate soil moisture estimates. Errors associated with spatial aggregation of highly variable land surface characteristics within 40 km satellite ?footprints? were found to be larger than the baseline mission requirements of 0.04-0.06 Volumetric Soil Moisture (VSM) over much of the study area. Soil moisture estimation errors were especially large and positive over portions of the domain characterized by mixtures of forests, wetlands, and open wate- r or mixtures of forest and pasture. However, by eliminating from the analysis areas with high vegetation water content or substantial surface water fractions, conditions that have well-documented adverse effects on soil moisture retrieval, we obtained errors that are in line with these mission requirements. We developed a parameterization for effective optical depth (?<sub>eff</sub>) based on the standard deviation of optical depth (?<sub>?</sub>) within a footprint in order to improve soil moisture retrieval in the presence of highly variable vegetation density. Use of the resulting parameterized optical depth in retrievals eliminated almost all of the soil moisture biases in our simulated setting. Operationally, the empirical relationship between ?<sub>eff</sub> and ?<sub>?</sub> would need to be determined a priori based on intensive measurements from ground-based instrumentation networks or via tuning of the algorithm. Due to this issue and other confounding factors, results are not expected to be as good as in the simulated cases presented here. However, the relationship found in this study is likely to be consistent across landscapes, so any correction following this functional form would very likely lead to large improvements over retrievals based simply on weighted mean properties.
    IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing 04/2010; · 2.87 Impact Factor

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