Articles | Volume 9, issue 3
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 9, 173–183, 2005
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-9-173-2005
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 9, 173–183, 2005
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-9-173-2005

  16 Aug 2005

16 Aug 2005

Soil moisture-runoff relation at the catchment scale as observed with coarse resolution microwave remote sensing

K. Scipal1, C. Scheffler2, and W. Wagner3,1 K. Scipal et al.
  • 1Vienna University of Technology Institute of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, Vienna, Austria
  • 2University of Jena, Institute of Geography, Jena, Germany
  • 3Christian Doppler Laboratory “Spatial Data from Laser Scanning and Remote Sensing", Vienna, Austria

Abstract. Microwave remote sensing offers emerging capabilities to monitor global hydrological processes. Instruments like the two dedicated soil moisture missions SMOS and HYDROS or the Advanced Scatterometer onboard METOP will provide a flow of coarse resolution microwave data, suited for macro-scale applications. Only recently, the scatterometer onboard of the European Remote Sensing Satellite, which is the precursor instrument of the Advanced Scatterometer, has been used successfully to derive soil moisture information at global scale with a spatial resolution of 50 km. Concepts of how to integrate macro-scale soil moisture data in hydrologic models are however still vague. In fact, the coarse resolution of the data provided by microwave radiometers and scatterometers is often considered to impede hydrological applications. Nevertheless, even if most hydrologic models are run at much finer scales, radiometers and scatterometers allow monitoring of atmosphere-induced changes in regional soil moisture patterns. This may prove to be valuable information for modelling hydrological processes in large river basins (>10 000 km2. In this paper, ERS scatterometer derived soil moisture products are compared to measured runoff of the Zambezi River in south-eastern Africa for several years (1992–2000). This comparison serves as one of the first demonstrations that there is hydrologic relevant information in coarse resolution satellite data. The observed high correlations between basin-averaged soil moisture and runoff time series (R2>0.85) demonstrate that the seasonal change from low runoff during the dry season to high runoff during the wet season is well captured by the ERS scatterometer. It can be expected that the high correlations are to a certain degree predetermined by the pronounced inter-annual cycle observed in the discharge behaviour of the Zambezi. To quantify this effect, time series of anomalies have been compared. This analysis showed that differences in runoff from year to year could, to some extent, be explained by soil moisture anomalies.