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Timing and spatial variability of fall soil freezing in boreal forest and its effect on SMAP L-band radiometer measurements

Prince, Michael, Roy, Alexandre, Royer, Alain, Langlois, Alexandre
Remote sensing of environment 2019 v.231 pp. 111230
air temperature, algorithms, autumn, boreal forests, freeze-thaw cycles, freezing, frozen soils, microwave radiometers, models, radiometry, remote sensing, satellites, soil, temporal variation, Canada
This paper investigates the potential for the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) L-band radiometer to estimate the percentage of frozen soil inside a pixel during fall periods. To evaluate the spatial and temporal variability of the autumn freeze in northeastern Canada boreal forest, a network of compact and self-recording temperature sensors (iButton) along transects averaging 10 km was deployed on the soil surface at two different sites. Results show important spatial variability in soil freezing timing with maximums, for the two sites, spanning from 7.5 to 9.5 weeks to reach a frozen state. It is known that L-band radiometry such as Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) can monitor freeze/thaw (F/T) seasonality at low spatial resolution (~40 km). However, the possible strong surface variability within a 40 km × 40 km pixel can lead to spatial delay in fall freezing. Simulations of brightness temperature (TB) weighted by spatially distributed iButton F/T records and using the ω-τ vegetation model show good agreement with SMAP satellite observations during the fall transition period with an average RMSE of 3.5 K. A new intra-pixel frozen soil percentage retrieval algorithm using only SMAP observations and air temperature is proposed. The percentage of frozen soil in falls 2015 and 2016 from the new algorithm and the in situ measurements are in good agreement with a coefficient of determination (R2) ranging between 0.63 and 0.88.