Soil moisture estimates from TRMM Microwave Imager observations over the Southern United States

Rajat Bindlish, Thomas J. Jackson, Eric F. Wood, Huilin Gao, Patrick Starks, David Bosch, Venkat Lakshmi

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130 Scopus citations


The lack of continuous soil moisture fields at large spatial scales, based on observations, has hampered hydrologists from understanding its role in weather and climate. The most readily available observations from which a surface wetness state could be derived is the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Microwave Imager (TMI) observations at 10.65 GHz. This paper describes the first attempt to map daily soil moisture from space over an extended period of time. Methods to adjust for diurnal changes associated with this temporal variability and how to mosaic these orbits are presented. The algorithm for deriving soil moisture and temperature from TMI observations is based on a physical model of microwave emission from a layered soil-vegetation-atmosphere medium. An iterative, least-squares minimization method, which uses dual polarization observations at 10.65 GHz, is employed in the retrieval algorithm. Soil moisture estimates were compared with ground measurements over the U.S. Southern Great Plains (SGP) in Oklahoma and the Little River Watershed, Georgia. The soil moisture experiment in Oklahoma was conducted in July 1999 and Little River in June 2000. During both the experiments, the region was dry at the onset of the experiment, and experienced moderate rainfall during the course of the experiment. The regions experienced a quick dry-down before the end of the experiment. The estimated soil moisture compared well with the ground observations for these experiments (standard error of 2.5%). The TMI-estimated soil moisture during 6-22 July over Southern U.S. was analyzed and found to be consistent with the observed meteorological conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)507-515
Number of pages9
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 15 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Soil Science
  • Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


  • Soil moisture estimates
  • Southern United States
  • TRMM Microwave Imager


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