Soil moisture will be mapped globally by the European Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) mission to be launched in 2009. The expected soil moisture accuracy will be 4.0 %v/v. The core component of the SMOS soil moisture retrieval algorithm is the L-band Microwave Emission of the Biosphere (L-MEB) model which simulates the microwave emission at L-band from the soil–vegetation layer. The model parameters have been calibrated with data acquired by tower mounted radiometer studies in Europe and the United States, with a typical footprint size of approximately 10 m. In this study, aircraft L-band data acquired during the National Airborne Field Experiment (NAFE) intensive campaign held in South-eastern Australia in 2005 are used to perform the first evaluation of the L-MEB model and its proposed parameterization when applied to coarser footprints (62.5 m). The model could be evaluated across large areas including a wide range of land surface conditions, typical of the Australian environment. Soil moisture was retrieved from the aircraft brightness temperatures using L-MEB and ground measured ancillary data (soil temperature, soil texture, vegetation water content and surface roughness) and subsequently evaluated against ground measurements of soil moisture. The retrieval accuracy when using the L-MEB ‘default’ set of model parameters was found to be better than 4.0 %v/v only over grassland covered sites. Over crops the model was found to underestimate soil moisture by up to 32 %v/v. After site specific calibration of the vegetation and roughness parameters, the retrieval accuracy was found to be equal or better than 4.8 %v/v for crops and grasslands at 62.5-m resolution. It is suggested that the proposed value of roughness parameter HR for crops is too low, and that variability of HR with soil moisture must be taken into consideration to obtain accurate retrievals at these scales. The analysis presented here is a crucial step towards validating the application of L-MEB for soil moisture retrieval from satellite observations in an operational context.
Remote Sensing of Environment Vol. 113, Issue 2, p. 435-444