Evaluation of SMOS soil moisture retrievals over the central United States for hydro-meteorological application

Lu Zhuo, Qiang Dai, Dawei Han

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
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Soil moisture has been widely recognized as a key variable in hydro-meteorological processes and plays an important role in hydrological modelling. Remote sensing techniques have improved the availability of soil moisture data, however, most previous studies have only focused on the evaluation of retrieved data against point-based observations using only one overpass (i.e., the ascending orbit). Recently, the global Level-3 soil moisture dataset generated from Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) observations was released by the Barcelona Expert Center. To address the aforementioned issues, this study is particularly focused on a basin scale evaluation in which the soil moisture deficit is derived from a three-layer Xinanjiang model used as a hydrological benchmark for all comparisons. In addition, both ascending and descending overpasses were analyzed for a more comprehensive comparison. It was interesting to find that the SMOS soil moisture accuracy did not improve with time as we would have expected. Furthermore, none of the overpasses provided reliable soil moisture estimates during the frozen season, especially for the ascending orbit. When frozen periods were removed, both overpasses showed significant improvements (i.e., the correlations increased from r = −0.53 to r = −0.65 and from r = −0.62 to r = −0.70 for the ascending and descending overpasses, respectively). In addition, it was noted that the SMOS retrievals from the descending overpass consistently were approximately 11.7% wetter than the ascending retrievals by volume. The overall assessment demonstrated that the descending orbit outperformed the ascending orbit, which was unexpected and enriched our knowledge in this area. Finally, the potential reasons were discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)146–155
Number of pages10
JournalPhysics and Chemistry of the Earth
Early online date2 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Hydro-meteorology
  • Passive microwaves
  • NLDAS-2
  • Soil moisture deficit
  • SMOS
  • Ascending
  • Descending
  • Xinanjiang (XAJ)

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