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Estimation of active-passive microwave covariation using SMAP and Sentinel-1 data

Jagdhuber, Thomas, Baur, Martin, Akbar, Ruzbeh, Das, Narendra N., Link, Moritz, He, Lian, Entekhabi, Dara
Remote sensing of environment 2019 v.225 pp. 458-468
microwave radiometers, models, radiometry, remote sensing, soil, spatial data, statistical analysis, synthetic aperture radar, temperature, time series analysis, vegetation cover
Active and passive microwave signals over land co-vary depending on their shared scattering and emission characteristics by soil and vegetation media. Estimates of this covariation can be used beneficially to downscale coarse-resolution brightness temperatures with high-resolution backscatter for enhanced-resolution Earth observations. In this study, a forward model of covariation for vegetated soil is derived by combining two well-established models of active and passive microwave interactions. The covariation model is inverted to obtain a single-pass observation-driven estimation of active-passive microwave covariation (β) based on multi-channel radiometer and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) scenes. A key feature of the estimation approach is that it is applicable to co-located spatial data scenes and does not rely on temporal information. We present applications of the estimation with combinations of SMAP (L-band) radiometry and both SMAP (L-band) and multi-angular Sentinel-1 (C-band) backscatter data. We first show that for the period of available SMAP L-band radiometer and radar data, the estimation approach for β, introduced in this study, yields similar results as the statistical time-series approach originally designed for SMAP. The new single-pass approach also allows estimation of active-passive covariation where the statistical approach cannot be applied because dynamic range of brightness temperature and backscatter are too limited to allow regression. We then apply the developed estimation method to SMAP L-band radiometer and multi-angular Sentinel-1 C-band SAR data. Here, the study quantifies the effects of microwave frequency and look-angles on the covariation by applying the estimation globally and analyzing the results as a function of vegetation cover – a key determinant of the strength of the covariation.