Aircraft based soil moisture retrievals under mixed vegetation and topographic conditions

R. Bindlish*, T. J. Jackson, A. Gasiewski, B. Stankov, M. Klein, M. H. Cosh, I. Mladenova, C. Watts, E. Vivoni, V. Lakshmi, J. Bolten, T. Keefer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


An unresolved issue in global soil moisture retrieval using passive microwave sensors is the spatial integration of heterogeneous landscape features to the nominal 50 km footprint observed by most low frequency satellite systems. One of the objectives of the Soil Moisture Experiments 2004 (SMEX04) was to address some aspects of this problem, specifically variability introduced by vegetation, topography and convective precipitation. Other goals included supporting the development of soil moisture data sets that would contribute to understanding the role of the land surface in the concurrent North American Monsoon System. SMEX04 was conducted over two regions: Arizona - semi-arid climate with sparse vegetation and moderate topography, and Sonora (Mexico) - moderate vegetation with strong topographic gradients. The Polarimetric Scanning Radiometer (PSR/CX) was flown on a Naval Research Lab P-3B aircraft as part of SMEX04 (10 dates of coverage over Arizona and 11 over Sonora). Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) was observed in both PSR and satellite-based (AMSR-E) observations at 6.92 GHz over Arizona, but no detectable RFI was observed over the Sonora domain. The PSR estimated soil moisture was in agreement with the ground-based estimates of soil moisture over both domains. The estimated error over the Sonora domain (SEE = 0.021 cm3/cm3) was higher than over the Arizona domain (SEE = 0.014 cm3/cm3). These results show the possibility of estimating soil moisture in areas of moderate and heterogeneous vegetation and high topographic variability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)375-390
Number of pages16
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Issue number2
StatePublished - 15 Feb 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) EOS AMSR Instrument Science Program, NASA Terrestrial Hydrology Program and the Aqua AMSR Science Program.


  • AMSR-E
  • Hydrology
  • Microwave
  • Soil moisture


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