Articles | Volume 20, issue 12
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 20, 4895–4911, 2016
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 20, 4895–4911, 2016

Research article 15 Dec 2016

Research article | 15 Dec 2016

Assimilation of SMOS brightness temperatures or soil moisture retrievals into a land surface model

Gabriëlle J. M. De Lannoy1 and Rolf H. Reichle2 Gabriëlle J. M. De Lannoy and Rolf H. Reichle
  • 1KU Leuven, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Heverlee, Belgium
  • 2NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, Greenbelt, Maryland, USA

Abstract. Three different data products from the Soil Moisture Ocean Salinity (SMOS) mission are assimilated separately into the Goddard Earth Observing System Model, version 5 (GEOS-5) to improve estimates of surface and root-zone soil moisture. The first product consists of multi-angle, dual-polarization brightness temperature (Tb) observations at the bottom of the atmosphere extracted from Level 1 data. The second product is a derived SMOS Tb product that mimics the data at a 40° incidence angle from the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission. The third product is the operational SMOS Level 2 surface soil moisture (SM) retrieval product. The assimilation system uses a spatially distributed ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF) with seasonally varying climatological bias mitigation for Tb assimilation, whereas a time-invariant cumulative density function matching is used for SM retrieval assimilation. All assimilation experiments improve the soil moisture estimates compared to model-only simulations in terms of unbiased root-mean-square differences and anomaly correlations during the period from 1 July 2010 to 1 May 2015 and for 187 sites across the US. Especially in areas where the satellite data are most sensitive to surface soil moisture, large skill improvements (e.g., an increase in the anomaly correlation by 0.1) are found in the surface soil moisture. The domain-average surface and root-zone skill metrics are similar among the various assimilation experiments, but large differences in skill are found locally. The observation-minus-forecast residuals and analysis increments reveal large differences in how the observations add value in the Tb and SM retrieval assimilation systems. The distinct patterns of these diagnostics in the two systems reflect observation and model errors patterns that are not well captured in the assigned EnKF error parameters. Consequently, a localized optimization of the EnKF error parameters is needed to further improve Tb or SM retrieval assimilation.

Short summary
The SMOS mission provides various various products to estimate soil moisture. This paper evaluates the performance of assimilating either Level-1-based multi-angle brightness temperature (Tb) observations, Level-1-based single-angle Tb observations, or Level 2 soil moisture retrievals, into the NASA Catchment land surface model.