Utility of Satellite Remote Sensing for Land-Atmosphere Coupling and Drought Metrics

J Hydrometeorol. 2017 Mar;18(3):863-877. doi: 10.1175/JHM-D-16-0171.1. Epub 2017 Mar 9.


Feedbacks between the land and the atmosphere can play an important role in the water cycle and a number of studies have quantified Land-Atmosphere (L-A) interactions and feedbacks through observations and prediction models. Due to the complex nature of L-A interactions, the observed variables are not always available at the needed temporal and spatial scales. This work derives the Coupling Drought Index (CDI) solely from satellite data and evaluates the input variables and the resultant CDI against in-situ data and reanalysis products. NASA's AQUA satellite and retrievals of soil moisture and lower tropospheric temperature and humidity properties are used as input. Overall, the AQUA-based CDI and its inputs perform well at a point, spatially, and in time (trends) compared to in-situ and reanalysis products. In addition, this work represents the first time that in-situ observations were utilized for the coupling classification and CDI. The combination of in-situ and satellite remote sensing CDI is unique and provides an observational tool for evaluating models at local and large scales. Overall, results indicate that there is sufficient information in the signal from simultaneous measurements of the land and atmosphere from satellite remote sensing to provide useful information for applications of drought monitoring and coupling metrics.

Keywords: Land-atmosphere interactions; drought; remote sensing.