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Remote Sens. 2017, 9(11), 1111; doi:10.3390/rs9111111

Multi-Scale Evaluation of the SMAP Product Using Sparse In-Situ Network over a High Mountainous Watershed, Northwest China

1
Key Laboratory of West China’s Environmental System (Ministry of Education), College of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730000, China
2
Department of Geography, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI 49008, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 7 September 2017 / Revised: 18 October 2017 / Accepted: 26 October 2017 / Published: 2 November 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Retrieval, Validation and Application of Satellite Soil Moisture Data)
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Abstract

As the latest L-band mission to date, evaluation of the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) products is one of its post-launch objectives. However, almost all previous studies have been conducted at the core validation sites (CVS) of the SMAP mission. This paper presents an evaluation of the SMAP soil moisture Level 3 (L3) and Level 4 (L4) products under different vegetation types at multiple tempo-spatial scales over the upper reach of the Heihe River Watershed, a topographically complex mountainous area in Northwest China. This was done through comparisons of the L3 and L4 products with ground-based observations from a sparse in situ network of permanent and temporary stations from 1 April 2015 to 22 June 2017. Results show that, compared with in situ observations at point scale, both the L3 and L4 products represent the temporal trends of the in situ observations in the study area well, with R values of 0.601 and 0.538 for the L3 ascending and descending products, respectively, and ranging from 0.353 to 0.410 for the L4 product at eight overpassing moments. However, because of the uncertainties of brightness temperature TBp and effective temperature Teff as well as their propagations in the inversion algorithm, both products did not achieve the accuracy of 0.04 m3/m3 in mountainous area. These uncertainties also result in the “dry bias” of the SMAP products in almost all the evaluations to date. Compared with areal average values at the watershed scale, the L3 product is far beyond the accuracy of 0.04 m3/m3 and the L4 product basically achieves the accuracy. In vegetation-covered land, the suitability and the variability of the coefficient bp result in both products performing best in cropland, then coniferous forest, sparse grassland, dense grassland, and alpine meadow, and worst in shrub. In barren land, the errors in estimating surface roughness h caused by the complex topography lead to poor performance of the SMAP products. With the relative errors of the SMAP brightness temperature observations and the corresponding land model forecast in the assimilation; the L3 and L4 products show different performance at both temporal and spatial scales; and the L3 product provides more reliable soil moisture estimates in the study area. Based on the results of this study, we propose: quantifying the uncertainties in estimating brightness temperature TBp and effective temperature Teff; determine coefficient bp and surface roughness h factor under various conditions; improving Goddard Earth Observing Model System Version 5 (GEOS-5) model; and deriving the SMAP-only climatology to improve the SMAP soil moisture estimates in the future. View Full-Text
Keywords: multi-scale evaluation; SMAP; sparse in situ network; high mountainous watershed; the Heihe River Watershed multi-scale evaluation; SMAP; sparse in situ network; high mountainous watershed; the Heihe River Watershed
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Zhang, L.; He, C.; Zhang, M. Multi-Scale Evaluation of the SMAP Product Using Sparse In-Situ Network over a High Mountainous Watershed, Northwest China. Remote Sens. 2017, 9, 1111.

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