Evidence of a topographic signal in surface soil moisture derived from ENVISAT ASAR wide swath data
Mason, D. C., Garcia-Pintado, J., Cloke, H. L. and Dance, S. L. (2016) Evidence of a topographic signal in surface soil moisture derived from ENVISAT ASAR wide swath data. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and GeoInformation, 45. pp. 178-186. ISSN 0303-2434
To link to this article DOI: 10.1016/j.jag.2015.02.004
The susceptibility of a catchment to flooding is affected by its soil moisture prior to an extreme rainfall event. While soil moisture is routinely observed by satellite instruments, results from previous work on the assimilation of remotely sensed soil moisture into hydrologic models have been mixed. This may have been due in part to the low spatial resolution of the observations used. In this study, the remote sensing aspects of a project attempting to improve flow predictions from a distributed hydrologic model by assimilating soil moisture measurements are described. Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) Wide Swath data were used to measure soil moisture as, unlike low resolution microwave data, they have sufficient resolution to allow soil moisture variations due to local topography to be detected, which may help to take into account the spatial heterogeneity of hydrological processes. Surface soil moisture content (SSMC) was measured over the catchments of the Severn and Avon rivers in the South West UK. To reduce the influence of vegetation, measurements were made only over homogeneous pixels of improved grassland determined from a land cover map. Radar backscatter was corrected for terrain variations and normalized to a common incidence angle. SSMC was calculated using change detection. To search for evidence of a topographic signal, the mean SSMC from improved grassland pixels on low slopes near rivers was compared to that on higher slopes. When the mean SSMC on low slopes was 30–90%, the higher slopes were slightly drier than the low slopes. The effect was reversed for lower SSMC values. It was also more pronounced during a drying event. These findings contribute to the scant information in the literature on the use of high resolution SAR soil moisture measurement to improve hydrologic models.