Articles | Volume 18, issue 4
Research article
04 Apr 2014
Research article |  | 04 Apr 2014

Long term soil moisture mapping over the Tibetan plateau using Special Sensor Microwave/Imager

R. van der Velde, M. S. Salama, T. Pellarin, M. Ofwono, Y. Ma, and Z. Su

Abstract. This paper discusses soil moisture retrievals over the Tibetan Plateau from brightness temperature (TB's) observed by the Special Sensor Microwave Imagers (SSM/I's) during the warm seasons of the period from July 1987 to December 2008. The Fundamental Climate Data Record (FCDR) of F08, F11 and F13 SSM/I satellites by the Precipitation Research Group of Colorado State University is used for this study. A soil moisture retrieval algorithm is developed based on a radiative transfer model that simulates top-of-atmosphere TB's whereby effects of atmosphere are calculated from near-surface forcings obtained from a bias-corrected dataset. Validation of SSM/I retrievals against in situ measurements for a two-and-half year period (225 matchups) gives a Root Mean Squared Error of 0.046 m3 m−3. The agreement between retrievals and Noah simulations from the Global Land Data Assimilation System is investigated to further provide confidence in the reliability of SSM/I retrievals at the Plateau-scale.

Normalised soil moisture anomalies (N) are computed on a warm seasonal (May–October) and on a monthly basis to analyse the trends present within the products available from July 1987 to December 2008. The slope of linear regression functions between N and time is used to quantify the trends. Both the warm season and monthly N indicate severe wettings of 0.8 to almost 1.6 decade−1 in the centre of the Plateau. Correlations are found by the trend with elevation for the warm season as a whole and the individual months May, September and October. The observed wetting of the Tibetan Plateau agrees with recent findings on permafrost retreat, precipitation increase and potential evapotranspiration decline.