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Validation and scaling of soil moisture in a semi-arid environment: SMAP validation experiment 2015 (SMAPVEX15)
- Colliander, Andreas, Cosh, Michael H., Misra, Sidharth, Jackson, Thomas J., Crow, Wade T., Chan, Steven, Bindlish, Rajat, Chae, Chunsik, Collins, Chandra Holifield, Yueh, Simon
- Remote sensing of environment 2017
- algorithms, instrumentation, monsoon season, rain, rain gauges, remote sensing, satellites, semiarid zones, soil water, spatial variation, storms, temperature, watersheds, Arizona
- The NASA SMAP (Soil Moisture Active Passive) mission conducted the SMAP Validation Experiment 2015 (SMAPVEX15) in order to support the calibration and validation activities of SMAP soil moisture data products. The main goals of the experiment were to address issues regarding the spatial disaggregation methodologies for improvement of soil moisture products and validation of the in situ measurement upscaling techniques. To support these objectives high-resolution soil moisture maps were acquired with the airborne PALS (Passive Active L-band Sensor) instrument over an area in southeast Arizona that includes the Walnut Gulch Experimental Watershed (WGEW), and intensive ground sampling was carried out to augment the permanent in situ instrumentation. The objective of the paper was to establish the correspondence and relationship between the highly heterogeneous spatial distribution of soil moisture on the ground and the coarse resolution radiometer-based soil moisture retrievals of SMAP. The high-resolution mapping conducted with PALS provided the required connection between the in situ measurements and SMAP retrievals. The in situ measurements were used to validate the PALS soil moisture acquired at 1-km resolution. Based on the information from a dense network of rain gauges in the study area, the in situ soil moisture measurements did not capture all the precipitation events accurately. That is, the PALS and SMAP soil moisture estimates responded to precipitation events detected by rain gauges, which were in some cases not detected by the in situ soil moisture sensors. It was also concluded that the spatial distribution of the soil moisture resulted from the relatively small spatial extents of the typical convective storms in this region was not completely captured with the in situ stations. After removing those cases (approximately 10% of the observations) the following metrics were obtained: RMSD (root mean square difference) of 0.016m3/m3 and correlation of 0.83. The PALS soil moisture was also compared to SMAP and in situ soil moisture at the 36-km scale, which is the SMAP grid size for the standard product. PALS and SMAP soil moistures were found to be very similar owing to the close match of the brightness temperature measurements and the use of a common soil moisture retrieval algorithm. Spatial heterogeneity, which was identified using the high-resolution PALS soil moisture and the intensive ground sampling, also contributed to differences between the soil moisture estimates. In general, discrepancies found between the L-band soil moisture estimates and the 5-cm depth in situ measurements require methodologies to mitigate the impact on their interpretations in soil moisture validation and algorithm development. Specifically, the metrics computed for the SMAP radiometer-based soil moisture product over WGEW will include errors resulting from rainfall, particularly during the monsoon season when the spatial distribution of soil moisture is especially heterogeneous.