Modelling the passive microwave signature from land surfaces: A review of recent results and application to the L-band SMOS & SMAP soil moisture retrieval algorithms

J. P. Wigneron, T. J. Jackson, P. O'Neill, G. De Lannoy, P. de Rosnay, J. P. Walker, P. Ferrazzoli, V. Mironov, S. Bircher, J. P. Grant, M. Kurum, M. Schwank, J. Munoz-Sabater, N. Das, A. Royer, A. Al-Yaari, A. Al Bitar, R. Fernandez-Moran, H. Lawrence, A. MialonM. Parrens, P. Richaume, S Delwart, Y. Kerr

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

220 Citations (Scopus)


Two passive microwave missions are currently operating at L-band to monitor surface soil moisture (SM) over continental surfaces. The SMOS sensor, based on an innovative interferometric technology enabling multi-angular signatures of surfaces to be measured, was launched in November 2009. The SMAP sensor, based on a large mesh reflector 6 m in diameter providing a conically scanning antenna beam with a surface incidence angle of 40°, was launched in January of 2015. Over the last decade, an intense scientific activity has focused on the development of the SM retrieval algorithms for the two missions. This activity has relied on many field (mainly tower-based) and airborne experimental campaigns, and since 2010–2011, on the SMOS and Aquarius space-borne L-band observations. It has relied too on the use of numerical, physical and semi-empirical models to simulate the microwave brightness temperature of natural scenes for a variety of scenarios in terms of system configurations (polarization, incidence angle) and soil, vegetation and climate conditions. Key components of the inversion models have been evaluated and new parameterizations of the effects of the surface temperature, soil roughness, soil permittivity, and vegetation extinction and scattering have been developed. Among others, global maps of select radiative transfer parameters have been estimated very recently. Based on this intense activity, improvements of the SMOS and SMAP SM inversion algorithms have been proposed. Some of them have already been implemented, whereas others are currently being investigated. In this paper, we present a review of the significant progress which has been made over the last decade in this field of research with a focus on L-band, and a discussion on possible applications to the SMOS and SMAP soil moisture retrieval approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)238-262
Number of pages25
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017

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