An evaluation of satellite remote sensing data products for land surface hydrology: Atmospheric infrared sounder

Craig R. Ferguson, Eric F. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The skill of instantaneous Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) retrieved near-surface meteorology, including surface skin temperature (Ts), air temperature (Ta), specific humidity (q), and relative humidity (RH), as well as model-derived surface pressure (Psurf) and 10-m wind speed (w), is evaluated using collocated National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) in situ observations, offline data from the North American Land Data Assimilation System (NLDAS), and geostationary remote sensing (RS) data from the Spinning Enhanced Visible and Infrared Imager (SEVIRI). Such data are needed for RS-based water cycle monitoring in areas without readily available in situ data. The study is conducted over the continental United States and Africa for a period of more than 6 years (2002-08). For both regions, it provides for the first time the geographic distribution of AIRS retrieval performance. Through conditional sampling, attribution of retrieval errors to scene atmospheric and surface conditions is performed. The findings support previous assertions that performance degrades with cloud fraction and that (positive) bias enhances with altitude. In general AIRS is biased warm and dry. In certain regions, strong AIRS-NCDC correlation suggests that bias-driven errors, which can be substantial, are correctable. The utility of the error characteristics for prescribing the inputinduced uncertainty of RS retrieval models is demonstrated through two applications: a microwave soil moisture retrieval algorithm and the Penman-Monteith evapotranspiration model. An important side benefit of this study is the verification of NLDAS forcing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1234-1262
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Hydrometeorology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


  • Energy budget/balance
  • Hydrology
  • Land surface
  • Remote sensing
  • Satellite observations
  • Water budget


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