Soil moisture retrieval depth of P- And L-band radiometry: predictions and observations

Xiaoji Shen, Jeffrey P. Walker, Nan Ye, Xiaoling Wu, Nithyapriya Boopathi, In-Young Yeo, Linlin Zhang, Liujun Zhu

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25 Citations (Scopus)


The moisture retrieval depth is commonly held to be the approximately top 5 cm at L-band (21-cm wavelength/1.41 GHz), which is seen as a limitation for hydrological applications. A widely held view is that this moisture retrieval depth increases with wavelength, ranging approximately from one-tenth to one-fourth of the wavelength. Accordingly, P-band (40-cm wavelength/0.75 GHz) is under investigation for soil moisture observation over a deeper layer of soil. However, there is no accepted method for predicting the moisture retrieval depth, and there has been no study to confirm that the actual retrieval depth at P-band is indeed deeper than that achieved at L-band. Consequently, this research has estimated the moisture retrieval depth from theory and compared with empirical evidence from tower-based observations. Model predictions and experimental observations agreed that P-band has the potential to retrieve soil moisture over a deeper layer (7 cm) than L-band (5 cm) while maintaining the same correlation. However, an alternate interpretation of experimental results is that P-band has a larger correlation with soil moisture (accuracy of retrieval) than L-band but for the same 5-cm moisture retrieval depth. The results also demonstrated the increasing trend of the moisture retrieval depth for increasing wavelength, with the potential to achieving a moisture retrieval depth greater than 10 cm for P-band below 0.5 GHz. Importantly, model predictions showed that moisture retrieval depth was not only dependent on soil moisture content and observation frequency, but also the moisture gradient of the profile.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6814-6822
Number of pages9
JournalIEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • Coherent model
  • P-/UHF-band
  • Polarimetric P-band Multibeam Radiometer (PPMR)
  • soil moisture retrieval/sensing depth

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