Improving ASCAT Soil Moisture Retrievals With an Enhanced Spatially Variable Vegetation Parameterization

Sebastian Hahn, Wolfgang Wagner, Susan C. Steele-Dunne, Mariette Vreugdenhil, Thomas Melzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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This study investigates the performance of the TU Wien soil moisture retrieval (TUW-SMR) algorithm by adapting the strength of the vegetation correction. The semiempirical change detection method TUW-SMR exploits the multiangle backscatter observations from spaceborne fan-beam scatterometer systems in order to derive surface soil moisture information expressed in the degree of saturation. The vegetation parameterization of TUW-SMR is controlled by the dry and wet crossover angles that are used to determine the dry and wet backscatter reference. Backscatter observations from the Advanced Scatterometer (ASCAT) are used to produce four soil moisture data sets based on different dry and wet crossover angles describing: 1) a static, respectively, no vegetation correction; 2) the currently used seasonal vegetation correction; 3) a stronger seasonal vegetation correction; and 4) a spatially variable seasonal vegetation correction with the stronger vegetation correction over vegetated areas and no vegetation correction over bare land. All four ASCAT soil moisture data sets are evaluated against soil moisture estimates from GLDAS-2.1 Noah land surface model and the European Space Agency (ESA) climate change initiative (CCI) Passive v04.5 soil moisture product using the triple collocation method and traditional correlation analysis. The results show that the spatially variable vegetation correction overall improves soil moisture estimates in both more densely vegetated areas, e.g., in large parts of North America and Europe, and more sparsely vegetated, e.g., Western Africa. Nonetheless, the experiment also provides insight into challenging retrieval conditions where the TUW-SMR fails to take all relevant backscatter processes into account, e.g., wetlands and bare soils with subsurface scattering.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalIEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Backscatter
  • Microwave theory and techniques
  • Moisture
  • Performance evaluation
  • radar cross sections
  • radar remote sensing
  • Soil moisture
  • soil moisture.
  • Surface soil
  • Vegetation
  • Vegetation mapping

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