Estimation of surface soil moisture and roughness from multi-angular ASAR imagery in the Watershed Allied Telemetry Experimental Research (WATER)
Abstract. Radar remote sensing has demonstrated its applicability to the retrieval of basin-scale soil moisture. The mechanism of radar backscattering from soils is complicated and strongly influenced by surface roughness. Additionally, retrieval of soil moisture using AIEM (advanced integrated equation model)-like models is a classic example of underdetermined problem due to a lack of credible known soil roughness distributions at a regional scale. Characterization of this roughness is therefore crucial for an accurate derivation of soil moisture based on backscattering models. This study aims to simultaneously obtain surface roughness parameters (standard deviation of surface height σ and correlation length cl) along with soil moisture from multi-angular ASAR images by using a two-step retrieval scheme based on the AIEM. The method firstly used a semi-empirical relationship that relates the roughness slope, Zs (Zs = σ2/cl) and the difference in backscattering coefficient (Δσ) from two ASAR images acquired with different incidence angles. Meanwhile, by using an experimental statistical relationship between σ and cl, both these parameters can be estimated. Then, the deduced roughness parameters were used for the retrieval of soil moisture in association with the AIEM. An evaluation of the proposed method was performed in an experimental area in the middle stream of the Heihe River Basin, where the Watershed Allied Telemetry Experimental Research (WATER) was taken place. It is demonstrated that the proposed method is feasible to achieve reliable estimation of soil water content. The key challenge is the presence of vegetation cover, which significantly impacts the estimates of surface roughness and soil moisture.