The SMAP and Copernicus Sentinel 1A/B microwave active-passive high resolution surface soil moisture product

Narendra N. Das, Dara Entekhabi, R. Scott Dunbar, Mario J. Chaubell, Andreas Colliander, Simon Yueh, Thomas Jagdhuber, Fan Chen, Wade Crow, Peggy E. O'Neill, Jeffrey P. Walker, Aaron Berg, David D. Bosch, Todd Caldwell, Michael H. Cosh, Chandra H. Collins, Ernesto Lopez-Baeza, Marc Thibeault

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Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission of NASA was launched in January 2015. Currently, SMAP has an L-band radiometer and a defunct L-band radar with a rotating 6-m mesh reflector antenna. On July 7th, 2015, the SMAP radar malfunctioned and became inoperable. Consequently, the production of high-resolution active-passive soil moisture product got hampered, and only ~2.5 months (April 15th, 2015 to July 7th, 2015) of data remain available. Therefore, during the SMAP post-radar phase, many ways were examined to restart the high-resolution soil moisture product generation of the SMAP mission. One of the feasible approaches was to substitute the SMAP radar with other available SAR data. Sentinel-1A/Sentinel-1B SAR data was found most suitable for combining with the SMAP radiometer data because of its nearly similar orbit configuration that allows overlapping of their swaths with a minimal time difference, a key feature/requirement for the SMAP active-passive algorithm. The Sentinel interferometric wide swath (IW) mode acquisition also provides the co-polarized and cross-polarized observations required for the SMAP active-passive algorithm. However, some differences do exist between the SMAP and Sentinel SAR data. They are mainly: 1) Sentinel has a C-band SAR whereas SMAP operates at L-band; 2) Sentinel has multiple incidence angles within its swath, and SMAP has one single incidence angle; and 3) Sentinel 1A/B Interferometric Wide (IW) swath width is ~250 km as compared to SMAP with 1000 km swath width. On any given day, the narrow swath width of the Sentinel observations significantly reduces the overlap spatial coverage between SMAP and Sentinel as compared to the original SMAP radar and radiometer swath coverage. Hence, the temporal resolution (revisit interval) suffers due to narrow overlapped swath width and degrades from 3 days to 12 days. One advantage of using very high-resolution resolution Sentinel-1A/Sentinel-1B data in the SMAP active-passive algorithm is the potential of obtaining the disaggregated brightness temperature and thus soil moisture at a much finer spatial resolution of 3 km and 1 km at global extent. The assessment of high-resolution product at 3 km and 1 km using the soil moisture calibration and validations sites shows reasonable accuracy of ~0.05 m3/m3. The SMAP-Sentinel1 active-passive high-resolution product is now available to the public (new version released in October 2018) through NSIDC (NASA DAAC). The duration of this product is from April 2015 to current date.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111380
Number of pages17
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019


  • Active-passive
  • High resolution
  • NASA
  • Radar
  • Radiometer
  • SAR
  • Sentinel
  • SMAP
  • Soil moisture
  • Soil moisture active passive

Cite this

Das, N. N., Entekhabi, D., Dunbar, R. S., Chaubell, M. J., Colliander, A., Yueh, S., Jagdhuber, T., Chen, F., Crow, W., O'Neill, P. E., Walker, J. P., Berg, A., Bosch, D. D., Caldwell, T., Cosh, M. H., Collins, C. H., Lopez-Baeza, E., & Thibeault, M. (2019). The SMAP and Copernicus Sentinel 1A/B microwave active-passive high resolution surface soil moisture product. Remote Sensing of Environment, 233, [111380].