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Global Soil Moisture From the Aquarius/SAC-D Satellite: Description and Initial Assessment

Rajat Bindlish, Thomas Jackson, Michael Cosh, Tianjie Zhao, Peggy O'Neill
IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Letters 2015 v.12 no.5 pp. 923-927
National Aeronautics and Space Administration, USDA, algorithms, climatology, land cover, models, prediction, radiometry, remote sensing, rivers, salinity, satellites, soil water, surface temperature, vegetation, water content, watersheds, Oklahoma
Aquarius satellite observations over land offer a new resource for measuring soil moisture from space. Although Aquarius was designed for ocean salinity mapping, our objective in this investigation is to exploit the large amount of land observations that Aquarius acquires and extend the mission scope to include the retrieval of surface soil moisture. The soil moisture retrieval algorithm development focused on using only the radiometer data because of the extensive heritage of passive microwave retrieval of soil moisture. The single channel algorithm (SCA) was implemented using the Aquarius observations to estimate surface soil moisture. Aquarius radiometer observations from three beams (after bias/gain modification) along with the National Centers for Environmental Prediction model forecast surface temperatures were then used to retrieve soil moisture. Ancillary data inputs required for using the SCA are vegetation water content, land surface temperature, and several soil and vegetation parameters based on land cover classes. The resulting global spatial patterns of soil moisture were consistent with the precipitation climatology. Initial assessments were performed using in situ observations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Little Washita and Little River watershed soil moisture networks. Results showed good performance by the algorithm for these land surface conditions for the period of August 2011–June 2013 (rmse = 0.031 m3/m3, Bias = −0.007 m3/m3, and R = 0.855). This radiometer-only soil moisture product will serve as a baseline for continuing research on both active and combined passive–active soil moisture algorithms. The products are routinely available through the National Aeronautics and Space Administration data archive at the National Snow and Ice Data Center.