On the impact of C-band in place of L-band radar for SMAP downscaling

Elaheh Ghafari, Jeffrey P. Walker, Narendra N. Das, Kamran Davary, Alireza Faridhosseini, Xiaoling Wu, Liujun Zhu

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2 Citations (Scopus)


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission was launched on 31st January 2015, with the aim of providing global soil moisture maps at 9 km spatial resolution by combining L-band radar and radiometer observations. However, after the SMAP radar became inoperable, NASA decided to utilize the Sentinel 1A/1B C-band SAR data in its place. The new version of baseline brightness temperature (Tb) downscaling algorithm for SMAP is tested using L-band airborne data to evaluate the capabilities of the C-band Sentinel-1A SAR relative to L-band radar data in downscaling the SMAP Tb for achieving high resolution brightness temperature. In this study, the downscaling algorithm used L-band airborne Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) backscatter (σ) collected from the fifth Soil Moisture Active Passive Experiment (SMAPEx-5) in south-eastern Australia to downscale 36 km L-band SMAP radiometer Tb pixels to 3 km and 9 km. The downscaling results were then compared with the published results using Sentinel-1A C-band backscatter, and evaluated against airborne 1 km resolution L-band passive microwave brightness temperature collected from SMAPEx-5. The results show that for vertical polarization the average Root Mean Square Error (RMSE) of downscaled Tb when compared with reference airborne Tb across 4 days at 9 km resolution were 4.9 K for L-band and 6.0 K for C-band, and increased to 9.3 K for L-band and 9.6 K for C-band at 3 km spatial resolution. Moreover, the correlation coefficient (R) of downscaled and reference Tb across the 4 days was 0.92 for L-band and 0.88 for C-band at 9 km, decreasing to 0.75 for L-band and 0.72 for C-band at 3 km spatial resolution. Accordingly, the RMSE increased and the correlation coefficient decreased when using C-band radar data in place of that at L-band. However, overall there is expected to be only a slight decrease in performance of the downscaling algorithm by using the Sentinel 1A data in place of the SMAP radar.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112111
Number of pages14
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2020


  • Backscatter
  • Brightness temperature
  • C-band
  • Downscaling
  • L-band
  • Sentinel-1A
  • SMAP
  • SMAPEx

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