Using TRMM/TMI to retrieve surface soil moisture over the southern United States from 1998 to 2002

Huilin Gao, Eric F. Wood, T. J. Jackson, M. Drusch, R. Bindlish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


Passive microwave remote sensing has been recognized as a potential method for measuring soil moisture. Combined with field observations and hydrological modeling brightness temperatures can be used to infer soil moisture states and fluxes in real time at large scales. However, operationally acquiring reliable soil moisture products from satellite observations has been hindered by three limitations: suitable low-frequency passive radiometric sensors that are sensitive to soil moisture and its changes; a retrieval model (parameterization) that provides operational estimates of soil moisture from top-of-atmosphere (TOA) microwave brightness temperature measurements at continental scales; and suitable, large-scale validation datasets. In this paper, soil moisture is retrieved across the southern United States using measurements from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Microwave Imager (TMI) X-band (10.65 GHz) radiometer with a land surface microwave emission model (LSMEM) developed by the authors. Surface temperatures required for the retrieval algorithm were obtained from the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) hydrological model using North American Land Data Assimilation System (NLDAS) forcing data. Because of the limited information content on soil moisture in the observed brightness temperatures over regions characterized by heavy vegetation, active precipitation, snow, and frozen ground, quality control flags for the retrieved soil moisture are provided. The resulting retrieved soil moisture database will be available through the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) Distributed Active Archive Center (DAAC) at a 1/8° spatial resolution across the southern United States for the 5-yr period of January 1998 through December 2002. Initial comparisons with in situ observations obtained from the Oklahoma Mesonet resulted in seasonal correlation coefficients exceeding 0.7 for half of the time covered by the dataset. The dynamic range of the satellite-derived soil moisture dataset is considerably higher compared to the in situ data. The spatial pattern of the TMI soil moisture product is consistent with the corresponding precipitation fields.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-38
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Hydrometeorology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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