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Soil Surface Sealing Effect on Soil Moisture at a Semiarid Hillslope: Implications for Remote Sensing Estimation

Geography and Environmental Development, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, P.O. Box 653, Beer Sheva 84105, Israel
Institute of Soil, Water and Environmental Sciences, Volcani Center, Agricultural Research Organization, P.O. Box 6, Bet Dagan 50250, Israel
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Remote Sens. 2014, 6(8), 7469-7490;
Received: 16 April 2014 / Revised: 17 July 2014 / Accepted: 18 July 2014 / Published: 13 August 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing of Land Degradation in Drylands)
PDF [3281 KB, uploaded 13 August 2014]


Robust estimation of soil moisture using microwave remote sensing depends on extensive ground sampling for calibration and validation of the data. Soil surface sealing is a frequent phenomenon in dry environments. It modulates soil moisture close to the soil surface and, thus, has the potential to affect the retrieval of soil moisture from microwave remote sensing and the validation of these data based on ground observations. We addressed this issue using a physically-based modeling approach that accounts explicitly for surface sealing at the hillslope scale. Simulated mean soil moisture at the respective layers corresponding to both the ground validation probe and the radar beam’s typical effective penetration depth were considered. A cyclic pattern was found in which, as compared to an unsealed profile, the seal layer intensifies the bias in validation during rainfall events and substantially reduces it during subsequent drying periods. The analysis of this cyclic pattern showed that, accounting for soil moisture dynamics at the soil surface, the optimal time for soil sampling following a rainfall event is a few hours in the case of an unsealed system and a few days in the case of a sealed one. Surface sealing was found to increase the temporal stability of soil moisture. In both sealed and unsealed systems, the greatest temporal stability was observed at positions with moderate slope inclination. Soil porosity was the best predictor of soil moisture temporal stability, indicating that prior knowledge regarding the soil texture distribution is crucial for the application of remote sensing validation schemes. View Full-Text
Keywords: soil surface sealing; remote sensing; soil moisture; modeling soil surface sealing; remote sensing; soil moisture; modeling

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Sela, S.; Svoray, T.; Assouline, S. Soil Surface Sealing Effect on Soil Moisture at a Semiarid Hillslope: Implications for Remote Sensing Estimation. Remote Sens. 2014, 6, 7469-7490.

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