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A Conceptual Approach to Assimilating Remote Sensing Data to Improve Soil Moisture Profile Estimates in a Surface Flux/Hydrology ModelKnowledge of the amount of water in the soil is of great importance to many earth science disciplines. Soil moisture is a key variable in controlling the exchange of water and energy between the land surface and the atmosphere. Thus, soil moisture information is valuable in a wide range of applications including weather and climate, runoff potential and flood control, early warning of droughts, irrigation, crop yield forecasting, soil erosion, reservoir management, geotechnical engineering, and water quality. Despite the importance of soil moisture information, widespread and continuous measurements of soil moisture are not possible today. Although many earth surface conditions can be measured from satellites, we still cannot adequately measure soil moisture from space. Research in soil moisture remote sensing began in the mid 1970s shortly after the surge in satellite development. Recent advances in remote sensing have shown that soil moisture can be measured, at least qualitatively, by several methods. Quantitative measurements of moisture in the soil surface layer have been most successful using both passive and active microwave remote sensing, although complications arise from surface roughness and vegetation type and density. Early attempts to measure soil moisture from space-borne microwave instruments were hindered by what is now considered sub-optimal wavelengths (shorter than 5 cm) and the coarse spatial resolution of the measurements. L-band frequencies between 1 and 3 GHz (10-30 cm) have been deemed optimal for detection of soil moisture in the upper few centimeters of soil. The Electronically Steered Thinned Array Radiometer (ESTAR), an aircraft-based instrument operating a 1,4 GHz, has shown great promise for soil moisture determination. Initiatives are underway to develop a similar instrument for space. Existing space-borne synthetic aperture radars (SARS) operating at C- and L-band have also shown some potential to detect surface wetness. The advantage of radar is its much higher resolution than passive microwave systems, but it is currently hampered by surface roughness effects and the lack of a good algorithm based on a single frequency and single polarization. In addition, its repeat frequency is generally low (about 40 days). In the meantime, two new radiometers offer some hope for remote sensing of soil moisture from space. The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Microwave Imager (TMI), launched in November 1997, possesses a 10.65 GHz channel and the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR) on both the ADEOS-11 and Earth Observing System AM-1 platforms to be launched in 1999 possesses a 6.9 GHz channel. Aside from issues about interference from vegetation, the coarse resolution of these data will provide considerable challenges pertaining to their application. The resolution of TMI is about 45 km and that of AMSR is about 70 km. These resolutions are grossly inconsistent with the scale of soil moisture processes and the spatial variability of factors that control soil moisture. Scale disparities such as these are forcing us to rethink how we assimilate data of various scales in hydrologic models. Of particular interest is how to assimilate soil moisture data by reconciling the scale disparity between what we can expect from present and future remote sensing measurements of soil moisture and modeling soil moisture processes. It is because of this disparity between the resolution of space-based sensors and the scale of data needed for capturing the spatial variability of soil moisture and related properties that remote sensing of soil moisture has not met with more widespread success. Within a single footprint of current sensors at the wavelengths optimal for this application, in most cases there is enormous heterogeneity in soil moisture created by differences in landcover, soils and topography, as well as variability in antecedent precipitation. It is difficult to interpret the meaning of 'mean' soil moisture under such conditions and even more difficult to apply such a value. Because of the non-linear relationships between near-surface soil moisture and other variables of interest, such as surface energy fluxes and runoff, mean soil moisture has little applicability at such large scales. It is for these reasons that the use of remote sensing in conjunction with a hydrologic model appears to be of benefit in capturing the complete spatial and temporal structure of soil moisture. This paper is Part I of a four-part series describing a method for intermittently assimilating remotely-sensed soil moisture information to improve performance of a distributed land surface hydrology model. The method, summarized in section II, involves the following components, each of which is detailed in the indicated section of the paper or subsequent papers in this series: Forward radiative transfer model methods (section II and Part IV); Use of a Kalman filter to assimilate remotely-sensed soil moisture estimates with the model profile (section II and Part IV); Application of a soil hydrology model to capture the continuous evolution of the soil moisture profile within and below the root zone (section III); Statistical aggregation techniques (section IV and Part II); Disaggregation techniques using a neural network approach (section IV and Part III); and Maximum likelihood and Bayesian algorithms for inversely solving for the soil moisture profile in the upper few cm (Part IV).
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Crosson, William L.
(NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL United States)
Laymon, Charles A.
(NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL United States)
Inguva, Ramarao
(Science and Technology Consultants Huntsville, AL United States)
Schamschula, Marius
(Alabama A & M Univ. Normal, AL United States)
Caulfield, John
(Fisk Univ. Nashville, TN United States)
Date Acquired
August 19, 2013
Publication Date
February 22, 1998
Publication Information
Publication: NASA University Research Centers Technical Advances in Aeronautics, Space Sciences and Technology, Earth Systems Sciences, Global Hydrology, and Education
Volume: 2 and 3
Subject Category
Earth Resources And Remote Sensing
Report/Patent Number
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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