Evaluating soil moisture retrievals from ESA's SMOS and NASA's SMAP brightness temperature datasets

A. Al-Yaari, J P Wigneron, Yann Kerr, N. Rodriguez-Fernandez, P. E. O'Neill, T. J. Jackson, Gabrielle Jacinthe Marie De Lannoy, Ahmad Al Bitar, A Mialon, P Richaume, J. P. Walker, A. Mahmoodi, S. Yueh

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95 Citations (Scopus)


Two satellites are currently monitoring surface soil moisture (SM) using L-band observations: SMOS (Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity), a joint ESA (European Space Agency), CNES (Centre national d'études spatiales), and CDTI (the Spanish government agency with responsibility for space) satellite launched on November 2, 2009 and SMAP (Soil Moisture Active Passive), a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) satellite successfully launched in January 2015. In this study, we used a multilinear regression approach to retrieve SM from SMAP data to create a global dataset of SM, which is consistent with SM data retrieved from SMOS. This was achieved by calibrating coefficients of the regression model using the CATDS (Centre Aval de Traitement des Données) SMOS Level 3 SM and the horizontally and vertically polarized brightness temperatures (TB) at 40° incidence angle, over the 2013–2014 period. Next, this model was applied to SMAP L3 TB data from Apr 2015 to Jul 2016. The retrieved SM from SMAP (referred to here as SMAP_Reg) was compared to: (i) the operational SMAP L3 SM (SMAP_SCA), retrieved using the baseline Single Channel retrieval Algorithm (SCA); and (ii) the operational SMOSL3 SM, derived from the multiangular inversion of the L-MEB model (L-MEB algorithm) (SMOSL3). This inter-comparison was made against in situ soil moisture measurements from > 400 sites spread over the globe, which are used here as a reference soil moisture dataset. The in situ observations were obtained from the International Soil Moisture Network (ISMN; https://ismn.geo.tuwien.ac.at/) in North of America (PBO_H2O, SCAN, SNOTEL, iRON, and USCRN), in Australia (Oznet), Africa (DAHRA), and in Europe (REMEDHUS, SMOSMANIA, FMI, and RSMN). The agreement was analyzed in terms of four classical statistical criteria: Root Mean Squared Error (RMSE), Bias, Unbiased RMSE (UnbRMSE), and correlation coefficient (R). Results of the comparison of these various products with in situ observations show that the performance of both SMAP products i.e. SMAP_SCA and SMAP_Reg is similar and marginally better to that of the SMOSL3 product particularly over the PBO_H2O, SCAN, and USCRN sites. However, SMOSL3 SM was closer to the in situ observations over the DAHRA and Oznet sites. We found that the correlation between all three datasets and in situ measurements is best (R > 0.80) over the Oznet sites and worst (R = 0.58) over the SNOTEL sites for SMAP_SCA and over the DAHRA and SMOSMANIA sites (R = 0.51 and R = 0.45 for SMAP_Reg and SMOSL3, respectively). The Bias values showed that all products are generally dry, except over RSMN, DAHRA, and Oznet (and FMI for SMAP_SCA). Finally, our analysis provided interesting insights that can be useful to improve the consistency between SMAP and SMOS datasets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-273
Number of pages17
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017


  • SMAP
  • SMOS
  • Soil moisture
  • Statistical regression

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