Effect of rainfall events on SMAP radiometer-based soil moisture accuracy using core validation sites

Andreas Colliander, Thomas J. Jackson, Aaron Berg, D. D. Bosch, Todd Caldwell, Steven Chan, Michael H. Cosh, C. Holifield Collins, Jose Martínez-Fernández, Heather McNairn, J. H. Prueger, P. J. Starks, Jeffrey P. Walker, Simon H. Yueh

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9 Citations (Scopus)


Soil moisture retrieval is particularly challenging during and immediately after precipitation events because of the transient movement of water in the shallow subsurface. Conventional L-band microwave radiometer– based soil moisture products use algorithms that assume a static state and a constant vertical soil moisture distribution. This study assessed the retrieval performance of a SMAP radiometer-based soil moisture product during and immediately after rain events. The removal of the rain event samples systematically improved the unbiased root-mean-square error (ubRMSE) from 0.037 (all measurements) to 0.028 m3 m-3 (transitory measurements screened out), while the magnitude of the bias became larger (from-0.005 to-0.014 m3 m-3); RMSE improved from 0.047 to 0.042 m3 m-3, and the Pearson correlation saw a minor positive change from 0.813 to 0.824. The results indicate that removing samples during the transitional period causes the comparison to improve, but also suggests that the true bias may be larger than the one estimated using all the samples. Furthermore, the results revealed that the effect was stronger for areas with high clay content. An assessment of the performance of the product during the rain events (overpass within 3 h from the start of the rain) showed that the ubRMSE degraded from the benchmarked 0.036 m3 m-3 (during no rain events at all) to 0.043 m3 m-3 (during rain). The results also showed that the bias became wetter, which is expected because SMAP sensed the water on the surface before propagating to the in situ sensors. SMAP maintains its soil moisture sensitivity even during rain events and screening of rain events may not be nec-essary to ensure sufficient soil moisture retrieval quality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-264
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Hydrometeorology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020

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