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Remote Sens. 2015, 7(7), 8250-8270;

Estimation of Surface Soil Moisture from Thermal Infrared Remote Sensing Using an Improved Trapezoid Method

School of the Environment, Flinders University, Adelaide, SA 5042, Australia
CSIRO Land and Water, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia
National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training, Adelaide, SA 5042, Australia
State Key Laboratory of Hydroscience and Engineering, Department of Hydraulic Engineering, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China
Linze Inland River Basin Research Station, Laboratory of Heihe River Eco-Hydrology and Basin Science, Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou 730000, China
State Key Laboratory of Hydraulics and Mountain River Engineering, Chengdu 610065, China
Laboratory of Tibetan Environment Changes and Land Surface Processes, Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Science, P.O. Box 2871, Beijing 100085, China
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Nicolas Baghdadi and Prasad S. Thenkabail
Received: 15 April 2015 / Revised: 25 May 2015 / Accepted: 12 June 2015 / Published: 24 June 2015
Full-Text   |   PDF [7569 KB, uploaded 24 June 2015]   |  


Surface soil moisture (SM) plays a fundamental role in energy and water partitioning in the soil–plant–atmosphere continuum. A reliable and operational algorithm is much needed to retrieve regional surface SM at high spatial and temporal resolutions. Here, we provide an operational framework of estimating surface SM at fine spatial resolutions (using visible/thermal infrared images and concurrent meteorological data) based on a trapezoidal space defined by remotely sensed vegetation cover (Fc) and land surface temperature (LST). Theoretical solutions of the wet and dry edges were derived to achieve a more accurate and effective determination of the Fc/LST space. Subjectivity and uncertainty arising from visual examination of extreme boundaries can consequently be largely reduced. In addition, theoretical derivation of the extreme boundaries allows a per-pixel determination of the VI/LST space such that the assumption of uniform atmospheric forcing over the entire domain is no longer required. The developed approach was tested at the Tibetan Plateau Soil Moisture/Temperature Monitoring Network (SMTMN) site in central Tibet, China, from August 2010 to August 2011 using Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Terra images. Results indicate that the developed trapezoid model reproduced the spatial and temporal patterns of observed surface SM reasonably well, with showing a root-mean-square error of 0.06 m3·m−3 at the site level and 0.03 m3·m−3 at the regional scale. In addition, a case study on 2 September 2010 highlighted the importance of the theoretically calculated wet and dry edges, as they can effectively obviate subjectivity and uncertainties in determining the Fc/LST space arising from visual interpretation of satellite images. Compared with Land Surface Models (LSMs) in Global Land Data Assimilation System-1, the remote sensing-based trapezoid approach gave generally better surface SM estimates, whereas the LSMs showed systematic underestimation. Sensitivity analyses suggested that the trapezoid method is most sensitive to field capacity and temperature but less sensitive to other meteorological observations and parameters. View Full-Text
Keywords: surface soil moisture; trapezoid method; thermal infrared remote sensing; MODIS; Tibet Plateau surface soil moisture; trapezoid method; thermal infrared remote sensing; MODIS; Tibet Plateau

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Yang, Y.; Guan, H.; Long, D.; Liu, B.; Qin, G.; Qin, J.; Batelaan, O. Estimation of Surface Soil Moisture from Thermal Infrared Remote Sensing Using an Improved Trapezoid Method. Remote Sens. 2015, 7, 8250-8270.

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