NTRS - NASA Technical Reports Server

Back to Results
A Proposed Extension to the Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity Level 2 Algorithm for Mixed Forest and Moderate Vegetation PixelsThe Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS)mission, launched in November 2009, provides global maps of soil moisture and ocean salinity by measuring the L-band (1.4 GHz) emission of the Earth's surface with a spatial resolution of 40-50 km.Uncertainty in the retrieval of soilmoisture over large heterogeneous areas such as SMOS pixels is expected, due to the non-linearity of the relationship between soil moisture and the microwave emission. The current baseline soilmoisture retrieval algorithm adopted by SMOS and implemented in the SMOS Level 2 (SMOS L2) processor partially accounts for the sub-pixel heterogeneity of the land surface, by modelling the individual contributions of different pixel fractions to the overall pixel emission. This retrieval approach is tested in this study using airborne L-band data over an area the size of a SMOS pixel characterised by a mix Eucalypt forest and moderate vegetation types (grassland and crops),with the objective of assessing its ability to correct for the soil moisture retrieval error induced by the land surface heterogeneity. A preliminary analysis using a traditional uniform pixel retrieval approach shows that the sub-pixel heterogeneity of land cover type causes significant errors in soil moisture retrieval (7.7%v/v RMSE, 2%v/v bias) in pixels characterised by a significant amount of forest (40-60%). Although the retrieval approach adopted by SMOS partially reduces this error, it is affected by errors beyond the SMOS target accuracy, presenting in particular a strong dry bias when a fraction of the pixel is occupied by forest (4.1%v/v RMSE,-3.1%v/v bias). An extension to the SMOS approach is proposed that accounts for the heterogeneity of vegetation optical depth within the SMOS pixel. The proposed approach is shown to significantly reduce the error in retrieved soil moisture (2.8%v/v RMSE, -0.3%v/v bias) in pixels characterised by a critical amount of forest (40-60%), at the limited cost of only a crude estimate of the optical depth of the forested area (better than 35% uncertainty). This study makes use of an unprecedented data set of airborne L-band observations and ground supporting data from the National Airborne Field Experiment 2005 (NAFE'05), which allowed accurate characterisation of the land surface heterogeneity over an area equivalent in size to a SMOS pixel.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
Panciera, Rocco (Melbourne Univ. Australia)
Walker, Jeffrey P. (Monash Univ. Australia)
Kalma, Jetse (Newcastle Univ. Newcastle, Australia)
Kim, Edward (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD, United States)
Date Acquired
August 25, 2013
Publication Date
July 30, 2011
Publication Information
Publication: Remote Sensing of Environment
Volume: 115
Issue: 2
Subject Category
Earth Resources and Remote Sensing
Report/Patent Number
Distribution Limits