Impact of random and periodic surface roughness on P- and L-band radiometry

Xiaoji Shen, Jeffrey P. Walker, Nan Ye, Xiaoling Wu, Foad Brakhasi, Nithyapriya Boopathi, Liujun Zhu, In-Young Yeo, Edward Kim, Yann Kerr, Thomas Jackson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


L-band passive microwave remote sensing is currently considered a robust technique for global monitoring of soil moisture. However, soil roughness complicates the relationship between brightness temperature and soil moisture, with current soil moisture retrieval algorithms typically assuming a constant roughness parameter globally, leading to a potential degradation in retrieval accuracy. This current investigation established a tower-based experiment site in Victoria, Australia. P-band (~40-cm wavelength/0.75 GHz) was compared with L-band (~21-cm wavelength/1.41 GHz) over random and periodic soil surfaces to determine if there is an improvement in brightness temperature simulation and soil moisture retrieval accuracy for bare soil conditions, due to reduced roughness impact when using a longer wavelength. The results showed that P-band was less impacted by random and periodic roughness than L-band, evidenced by more comparable statistics across different roughness conditions. The roughness effect from smooth surfaces (e.g., 0.8-cm root-mean-square height and 11.1-cm correlation length) could be potentially ignored at both P- and L-band with satisfactory simulation and retrieval performance. However, for rougher soil (e.g., 1.6-cm root-mean-square height and 6.8-cm correlation length), the roughness impact needed to be accounted for at both P- and L-band, with P-band observations showing less impact than L-band. Moreover, a sinusoidal soil surface with 10-cm amplitude and 80-cm period substantially impacted the brightness temperature simulation and soil moisture retrieval at both P- and L-band, which could not be fully accounted for using the SMOS and SMAP default roughness parameters. However, when retrieving roughness parameters along with soil moisture, the ubRMSE at P-band over periodic soil was improved to a similar level (0.01‐0.02 m3/m3) as that of smooth flat soil (0.01 m3/m3), while L-band showed higher ubRMSE over the periodic soil (0.03‐0.04 m3/m3) than over smooth flat soil (0.01 m3/m3). Accordingly, periodic roughness effects were reduced by using observations at P-band.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112825
Number of pages13
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • P-band
  • Passive microwave
  • Row structure
  • Soil moisture retrieval
  • Soil roughness

Cite this