The understanding of land surface-atmosphere energy exchange is extremely important for predicting climate change and weather impacts, particularly the influence of soil moisture content (SMC) on hydrometeorological and ecological processes, which are also linked to human activities. Unfortunately, traditional measurement methods are expensive and cumbersome over large areas, whereas measurements from satellite active and passive microwave sensors have shown advantages for SMC monitoring. Since the launch of the first passive microwave satellite in 1978, more and more progresses have been made in monitoring SMC from satellites, e.g., the Soil Moisture Active and Passive (SMAP) and Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) missions in the last decade. Recently, new methods using signals of opportunity have been emerging, highlighting the Global Navigation Satellite Systems-Reflectometry (GNSS-R), which has wide applications in Earth’s surface remote sensing due to its numerous advantages (e.g., revisiting time, global coverage, low cost, all-weather measurements, and near real-time) when compared to the conventional observations. In this paper, a detailed review on the current SMC measurement techniques, retrieval approaches, products, and applications is presented, particularly the new and promising GNSS-R technique. Recent advances, future prospects and challenges are given and discussed.
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