Articles | Volume 14, issue 4
06 Apr 2010
 | 06 Apr 2010

A comparison of ASCAT and modelled soil moisture over South Africa, using TOPKAPI in land surface mode

S. Sinclair and G. G. S. Pegram

Abstract. In this paper we compare two independent soil moisture estimates over South Africa. The first estimate is a Soil Saturation Index (SSI) provided by automated real-time computations of the TOPKAPI hydrological model, adapted to run as a collection of independent 1 km cells with centres on a grid with a spatial resolution of 0.125°, at 3 h intervals. The second set of estimates is the remotely sensed ASCAT Surface Soil Moisture product, temporally filtered to yield a Soil Wetness Index (SWI). For the TOPKAPI cells, the rainfall forcing used is the TRMM 3B42RT product, while the evapotranspiration forcing is based on a modification of the FAO56 reference crop evapotranspiration (ET0). ET0 is computed using forecast fields of meteorological variables from the Unified Model (UM) runs done by the South African Weather Service (SAWS); the UM forecast fields were used, because reanalysis is not done by SAWS. To validate these ET0 estimates we compare them with those computed using observed meteorological data at a network of weather stations; they were found to be unbiased with acceptable scatter. Using the rainfall and evapotranspiration forcing data, the percentage saturation of the TOPKAPI soil store is computed as a Soil Saturation Index (SSI), for each of 6984 unconnected uncalibrated TOPKAPI cells at 3 h time-steps. These SSI estimates are then compared with the SWI estimates obtained from ASCAT. The comparisons indicate a good correspondence in the dynamic behaviour of SWI and SSI for a significant proportion of South Africa.