Data Assimilation of High-Resolution Thermal and Radar Remote Sensing Retrievals for Soil Moisture Monitoring in a Drip-Irrigated Vineyard

Remote Sens Environ. 2020 Mar 15;239:10.1016/j.rse.2019.111622. doi: 10.1016/j.rse.2019.111622.


Efficient water use assessment and irrigation management is critical for the sustainability of irrigated agriculture, especially under changing climate conditions. Due to the impracticality of maintaining ground instrumentation over wide geographic areas, remote sensing and numerical model-based fine-scale mapping of soil water conditions have been applied for water resource applications at a range of spatial scales. Here, we present a prototype framework for integrating high-resolution thermal infrared (TIR) and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) remote sensing data into a soil-vegetation-atmosphere-transfer (SVAT) model with the aim of providing improved estimates of surface- and root-zone soil moisture that can support optimized irrigation management strategies. Specifically, remotely-sensed estimates of water stress (from TIR) and surface soil moisture retrievals (from SAR) are assimilated into a 30-m resolution SVAT model over a vineyard site in the Central Valley of California, U.S. The efficacy of our data assimilation algorithm is investigated via both the synthetic and real data experiments. Results demonstrate that a particle filtering approach is superior to an ensemble Kalman filter for handling the nonlinear relationship between model states and observations. In addition, biophysical conditions such as leaf area index are shown to impact the relationship between observations and states and must therefore be represented accurately in the assimilation model. Overall, both surface and root-zone soil moisture predicted via the SVAT model are enhanced through the assimilation of thermal and radar-based retrievals, suggesting the potential for improving irrigation management at the agricultural sub-field scale using a data assimilation strategy.

Keywords: data assimilation; evapotranspiration; high-resolution; irrigation management; radar; soil moisture; thermal remote sensing.