An analysis of atmospheric water vapor variations over a complex agricultural region using airborne imaging spectrometry

PLoS One. 2019 Dec 6;14(12):e0226014. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0226014. eCollection 2019.


Understanding atmospheric water vapor patterns can inform regional understanding of water use, climate patterns and hydrologic processes. This research uses Airborne Visible Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) reflectance and water vapor imagery to investigate spatial patterns of water vapor in California's Central Valley on a June date in 2013, and 2015, and relates these patterns to surface characteristics and atmospheric properties. We analyze water vapor imagery at two scales: regional and agricultural field, to examine how the slope, intercept, and trajectory of water vapor interact with the landscape in a highly diverse and complex agricultural setting. At the field scale, we found significant quadratic relationships between water vapor slope and wind magnitude in both years (p<0.001). Results showed a positive correlation between crop water use and the frequency with which crops showed directional agreement between wind and water vapor (r = 0.23). At the regional scale, we found patterns of water vapor that indicate advection of moisture across the scene. Water vapor slope was inversely correlated to field size with correlations of -0.37, and -0.28 for 2013 and 2015. No correlation was found between green vegetation fraction and vapor slope (r = 0.001 in 2013, r = 0.02 in 2015), but a weak correlation was found for the intercept (r = 0.11 in 2013, r = 0.26 in 2015). These results lead us to conclude that accumulation of water vapor above fields in these scenes is observable with AVIRIS-derived water vapor imagery whereas advection at the field level was inconsistent. Based on these results, we identify new opportunities to use and apply water vapor imagery to advance our understanding of hydro-climatic patterns and applied agricultural water use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Gases / chemistry*
  • Spectrophotometry / methods*
  • Water / analysis*
  • Wind


  • Gases
  • Water

Grant support

Research is based off of work supported by National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Grant No. DGE 1144085 (SS).