Understanding and Improving the Soil Moisture Retrieval Algorithm under Space, Time and Heterogeneity
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The spatial and temporal monitoring of soil moisture from remote sensing platforms plays a pivotal role in predicting the future food and water security. That is, improving soil moisture estimation at remote sensing platforms has remarkable impacts in the fields of meteorology, hydrology, agriculture, and global climate change. However, remote sensing of soil moisture for long is hindered by spatial heterogeneity in land surface variables (soil, biomass, topography, and temperature) which cause systematic and random errors in soil moisture retrievals. Most soil moisture improvement methods to date focused on the downscaling of either coarse resolution soil moisture or brightness temperature based on fine scale ancillary information of land surface variables. Comparatively little work has been done on improving the parameterization of most sensitive variables to radiative transfer model that impact soil moisture retrieval accuracy. In addition, the classic radiative transfer model assumes the vegetation and surface roughness parameters, as constant with space and time which undermines the retrieval accuracy. Also, it is largely elusive so far the discussion on the non-linearity of microwave radiative transfer model and its relationship with energy and water fluxes. In order to address the above mentioned limitations, this dissertation aims to develop and validate a soil moisture modeling framework with associated improved parameterizations for surface roughness and vegetation optical depth (VOD) in the homogeneous and heterogeneous environments. To this end, the following research work is specifically conducted: (a) conduct comprehensive sensitivity analysis on radiative transfer model with space, time and hydroclimates; (b) develop multi-scale surface roughness model which incorporates small (soil) and large (topography) surface undulations to improve soil moisture retrievals; (c) improve the parameterization of vegetation topical depth (VOD) using within-pixel biomass heterogeneity to improved soil moisture accuracy; (d) investigate the non-linearity in microwave radiative transfer model, and its association with thermal energy fluxes. The results of this study showed that: (a) the total (linear + non-linear) sensitivity of soil, temperature and biomass variables varied with spatial scale (support), time, and hydro climates, with higher non-linearity observed for dense biomass regions. This non-linearity is also governed by soil moisture availability and temperature. Among these variables, surface roughness and vegetation optical depth are most sensitive variables to radiative transfer model (RTM); (b) considering the spatial and temporal variability in parameterization of surface roughness and VOD has improved soil moisture retrieval accuracy, importantly in cropland and forest environments; and (c) the soil moisture estimated through evaporative fraction (EF) correlates higher with VOD corrected soil moisture.
Neelam, Maheshwari (2018). Understanding and Improving the Soil Moisture Retrieval Algorithm under Space, Time and Heterogeneity. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from