Assessment of Soil Moisture SMAP Retrievals and ELBARA-III Measurements in a Tibetan Meadow Ecosystem

Donghai Zheng, Xin Wang, Rogier van der Velde, Mike Schwank, Paolo Ferrazzoli, Jun Wen, Zuoliang Wang, Andreas Colliander, Rajat Bindlish, Zhongbo Su

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This letter presents the results evaluating retrievals of liquid water content (θ liq ) performed with a zero-order radiative transfer (τ-ω) model under frozen and thawed soil conditions from Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) and ELBARA-III brightness temperature (T B p ) measurements collected over a Tibetan meadow ecosystem. A good agreement is found between time series of the SMAP and ELBARA-III measured T B p resulting in a Pearson product-moment coefficient (R) larger than 0.87. Differences noted between the two data sets can be associated with discrepancies in θ liq measured in the specific footprints, whereby the SMAP measurements are best explained by the in situ θ liq . Furthermore, the in situ θ liq has a better agreement with the horizontally polarized SMAP and ELBARA-III measurements (THB ) in the cold season, whereas the vertically polarized measurements (TVB ) are1111better correlated with θ liq in the warm season. With the implementation of new vegetation and surface roughness parameterizations for the τ-ω model, the dynamics of in situ θ liq is better reproduced by corresponding retrievals for both frozen and thawed soil conditions, leading to the reduction in the unbiased root-mean-square error (ubRMSE) by more than 31% in comparison with these retrievals using SMAP default parameterizations. Notably, the single-channel algorithm configured with the new parameterizations using SMAP TVB measured during the ascending overpass provides the best θ liq retrievals with a ubRMSE of 0.035 m 3 ·m -3 that is well within the SMAP mission requirements.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1407-1411
Number of pages5
JournalIEEE geoscience and remote sensing letters
Issue number9
Early online date5 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019


  • Frozen and thawed soil
  • Grassland
  • L-band microwave radiometry
  • Liquid water content
  • Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP)
  • Tibetan Plateau
  • 22/4 OA procedure


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