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Soil Moisture Retrieval Based on GPS Signal Strength Attenuation

Department of Geography, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Luisenstr 37, Munich 80333, Germany
Vista GmbH, Gabelsbergerstr 51, Munich 80333, Germany
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Jian Peng
Water 2016, 8(7), 276;
Received: 16 April 2016 / Revised: 25 June 2016 / Accepted: 28 June 2016 / Published: 2 July 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing of Soil Moisture)
PDF [4671 KB, uploaded 5 July 2016]


Soil moisture (SM) is a highly relevant variable for agriculture, the emergence of floods and a key variable in the global energy and water cycle. In the last years, several satellite missions have been launched especially to derive large-scale products of the SM dynamics on the Earth. However, in situ validation data are often scarce. We developed a new method to retrieve SM of bare soil from measurements of low-cost GPS (Global Positioning System) sensors that receive the freely available GPS L1-band signals. The experimental setup of three GPS sensors was installed at a bare soil field at the German Weather Service (DWD) in Munich for almost 1.5 years. Two GPS antennas were installed within the soil column at a depth of 10 cm and one above the soil. SM was successfully retrieved based on GPS signal strength losses through the integral soil volume. The results show high agreement with measured and modelled SM validation data. Due to its non-destructive, cheap and low power setup, GPS sensor networks could also be used for potential applications in remote areas, aiming to serve as satellite validation data and to support the fields of agriculture, water supply, flood forecasting and climate change. View Full-Text
Keywords: soil moisture measurements; dielectric; Global Satellite Navigation System; L-band; signal strength attenuation; microwave remote sensing; PROMET soil moisture measurements; dielectric; Global Satellite Navigation System; L-band; signal strength attenuation; microwave remote sensing; PROMET

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Koch, F.; Schlenz, F.; Prasch, M.; Appel, F.; Ruf, T.; Mauser, W. Soil Moisture Retrieval Based on GPS Signal Strength Attenuation. Water 2016, 8, 276.

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