Comparison of remotely sensed and modelled soil moisture data sets across Australia

C.M Holgate, R. A.M. De Jeu, Albert Ide Jan Martijn van Dijk, Y. Y. Liu, Luigi John Renzullo, [Unknown] Vinodkumar, I. Dharssi, Robert M Parinussa, R. Van Der Schalie, A. Gevaert, J. Walker, D. McJannet, J. Cleverly, V. Haverd, C.M. Trudinger, P. R. Briggs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

61 Citations (Scopus)


This study compared surface soil moisture from 11 separate remote sensing and modelled products across Australia in a common framework. The comparison was based on a correlation analysis between soil moisture products and in situ data collated from three separate ground-based networks: OzFlux, OzNet and CosmOz. The correlation analysis was performed using both original data sets and temporal anomalies, and was supported by examination of the time series plots. The interrelationships between the products were also explored using cluster analyses. The products considered in this study include: Soil Moisture Ocean Salinity (SMOS; both Land Parameter Retrieval Model (LPRM) and L-band Microwave Emission of the Biosphere (LMEB) algorithms), Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer 2 (AMSR2; both LPRM and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) algorithms) and Advanced Scatterometer (ASCAT) satellite-based products, and WaterDyn, Australian Water Resource Assessment Landscape (AWRA-L), Antecedent Precipitation Index (API), Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI), Mount's Soil Dryness Index (MSDI) and CABLE/BIOS2 model-based products. The comparison of the satellite and model data sets showed variation in their ability to reflect in situ soil moisture conditions across Australia owing to individual product characteristics. The comparison showed the satellite products yielded similar ranges of correlation coefficients, with the possible exception of AMSR2_JAXA. SMOS (both algorithms) achieved slightly better agreement with in situ measurements than the alternative satellite products overall. Among the models, WaterDyn yielded the highest correlation most consistently across the different locations and climate zones considered. All products displayed a weaker performance in estimating soil moisture anomalies than the original data sets (i.e. the absolute values), showing all products to be more effective in detecting interannual and seasonal soil moisture dynamics rather than individual events. Using cluster analysis we found satellite products generally grouped together, whereas models were more similar to other models. SMOS (based on LMEB algorithm and ascending overpass) and ASCAT (descending overpass) were found to be very similar to each other in terms of their temporal soil moisture dynamics, whereas AMSR2 (based on LPRM algorithm and descending overpass) and AMSR2 (based on JAXA algorithm and ascending overpass) were dissimilar. Of the model products, WaterDyn and CABLE were similar to each other, as were the API/AWRA-L and KBDI/MSDI pairs. The clustering suggests systematic commonalities in error structure and duplication of information may exist between products. This evaluation has highlighted relative strengths, weaknesses, and complementarities between products, so the drawbacks of each may be minimised through a more informed assessment of fitness for purpose by end users.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)479-500
Number of pages22
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016


  • AMSR2
  • API
  • AWRA-L
  • Cluster analysis
  • Comparison
  • In situ
  • KBDI
  • MSDI
  • SMOS
  • Soil moisture
  • WaterDyn

Cite this