Articles | Volume 15, issue 5
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 15, 1675–1698, 2011
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 15, 1675–1698, 2011

Research article 30 May 2011

Research article | 30 May 2011

The International Soil Moisture Network: a data hosting facility for global in situ soil moisture measurements

W. A. Dorigo1, W. Wagner1, R. Hohensinn1, S. Hahn1, C. Paulik1, A. Xaver1, A. Gruber1, M. Drusch2, S. Mecklenburg3, P. van Oevelen4, A. Robock5, and T. Jackson6 W. A. Dorigo et al.
  • 1Institute of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (IPF), Vienna University of Technology, Vienna, Austria
  • 2European Space Agency, ESTEC, Noordwijk, The Netherlands
  • 3European Space Agency, ESRIN, Frascati, Italy
  • 4International GEWEX Project Office (IGPO), Silver Spring, Maryland, USA
  • 5Department of Environmental Sciences, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA
  • 6Hydrology and Remote Sensing Laboratory, Agricultural Research Service, US Department of Agriculture, Beltsville, USA

Abstract. In situ measurements of soil moisture are invaluable for calibrating and validating land surface models and satellite-based soil moisture retrievals. In addition, long-term time series of in situ soil moisture measurements themselves can reveal trends in the water cycle related to climate or land cover change. Nevertheless, on a worldwide basis the number of meteorological networks and stations measuring soil moisture, in particular on a continuous basis, is still limited and the data they provide lack standardization of technique and protocol. To overcome many of these limitations, the International Soil Moisture Network (ISMN; was initiated to serve as a centralized data hosting facility where globally available in situ soil moisture measurements from operational networks and validation campaigns are collected, harmonized, and made available to users. Data collecting networks share their soil moisture datasets with the ISMN on a voluntary and no-cost basis. Incoming soil moisture data are automatically transformed into common volumetric soil moisture units and checked for outliers and implausible values. Apart from soil water measurements from different depths, important metadata and meteorological variables (e.g., precipitation and soil temperature) are stored in the database. These will assist the user in correctly interpreting the soil moisture data. The database is queried through a graphical user interface while output of data selected for download is provided according to common standards for data and metadata. Currently (status May 2011), the ISMN contains data of 19 networks and more than 500 stations located in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. The time period spanned by the entire database runs from 1952 until the present, although most datasets have originated during the last decade. The database is rapidly expanding, which means that both the number of stations and the time period covered by the existing stations are still growing. Hence, it will become an increasingly important resource for validating and improving satellite-derived soil moisture products and studying climate related trends. As the ISMN is animated by the scientific community itself, we invite potential networks to enrich the collection by sharing their in situ soil moisture data.