Error in Radar-Derived Soil Moisture due to Roughness Parameterization: An Analysis Based on Synthetical Surface Profiles

Sensors (Basel). 2009;9(2):1067-93. doi: 10.3390/s90201067. Epub 2009 Feb 17.


In the past decades, many studies on soil moisture retrieval from SAR demonstrated a poor correlation between the top layer soil moisture content and observed backscatter coefficients, which mainly has been attributed to difficulties involved in the parameterization of surface roughness. The present paper describes a theoretical study, performed on synthetical surface profiles, which investigates how errors on roughness parameters are introduced by standard measurement techniques, and how they will propagate through the commonly used Integral Equation Model (IEM) into a corresponding soil moisture retrieval error for some of the currently most used SAR configurations. Key aspects influencing the error on the roughness parameterization and consequently on soil moisture retrieval are: the length of the surface profile, the number of profile measurements, the horizontal and vertical accuracy of profile measurements and the removal of trends along profiles. Moreover, it is found that soil moisture retrieval with C-band configuration generally is less sensitive to inaccuracies in roughness parameterization than retrieval with L-band configuration.

Keywords: SAR; soil moisture; soil roughness parameterization.