Articles | Volume 15, issue 11
Research article
25 Nov 2011
Research article |  | 25 Nov 2011

The sensitivity of land emissivity estimates from AMSR-E at C and X bands to surface properties

H. Norouzi, M. Temimi, W. B. Rossow, C. Pearl, M. Azarderakhsh, and R. Khanbilvardi

Abstract. Microwave observations at low frequencies exhibit more sensitivity to surface and subsurface properties with little interference from the atmosphere. The objective of this study is to develop a global land emissivity product using passive microwave observations from the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer – Earth Observing System (AMSR-E) and to investigate its sensitivity to land surface properties. The developed product complements existing land emissivity products from SSM/I and AMSU by adding land emissivity estimates at two lower frequencies, 6.9 and 10.65 GHz (C- and X-band, respectively). Observations at these low frequencies penetrate deeper into the soil layer. Ancillary data used in the analysis, such as surface skin temperature and cloud mask, are obtained from International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP). Atmospheric properties are obtained from the TIROS Operational Vertical Sounder (TOVS) observations to determine the small upwelling and downwelling atmospheric emissions as well as the atmospheric transmission. A sensitivity test confirms the small effect of the atmosphere but shows that skin temperature accuracy can significantly affect emissivity estimates. Retrieved emissivities at C- and X-bands and their polarization differences exhibit similar patterns of variation with changes in land cover type, soil moisture, and vegetation density as seen at SSM/I-like frequencies (Ka and Ku bands). The emissivity maps from AMSR-E at these higher frequencies agree reasonably well with the existing SSM/I-based product. The inherent discrepancy introduced by the difference between SSM/I and AMSR-E frequencies, incidence angles, and calibration has been assessed. Significantly greater standard deviation of estimated emissivities compared to SSM/I land emissivity product was found over desert regions. Large differences between emissivity estimates from ascending and descending overpasses were found at lower frequencies due to the inconsistency between thermal IR skin temperatures and passive microwave brightness temperatures which can originate from below the surface. The mismatch between day and night AMSR-E emissivities is greater than ascending and descending differences of SSM/I emissivity. This is because of unique orbit time of AMSR-E (01:30 a.m./p.m. LT) while other microwave sensors have orbit time of 06:00 to 09:00 (a.m./p.m.). This highlights the importance of considering the penetration depth of the microwave signal and diurnal variability of the temperature in emissivity retrieval. The effect of these factors is greater for AMSR-E observations than SSM/I observations, as AMSR-E observations exhibit a greater difference between day and night measures. This issue must be addressed in future studies to improve the accuracy of the emissivity estimates especially at AMSR-E lower frequencies.