Mapping root zone soil moisture using remotely sensed optical imagery uri icon

abstract

  • Field-based soil moisture measurements are cumbersome. Remote sensing techniques based on active or passive microwave data have limitations. This paper presents and validates a new method based on land surface energy balances using remotely sensed optical data (including thermal infrared),
  • Field-based soil moisture measurements are cumbersome. Remote sensing techniques based on active or passive microwave data have limitations. This paper presents and validates a new method based on land surface energy balances using remotely sensed optical data (including thermal infrared), which allows field and landscape-scale mapping of soil moisture depth-averaged through the root zone of existing vegetation. Root zone depth can be variable when crops are emerging. The pixel-wise "evaporative fraction" (ratio, of latent heat flux to net available energy) is related to volumetric soil moisture through a standard regression curve that is independent of soil and vegetation type. Validation with measured root zone soil moisture in cropped soils in Mexico, and Pakistan has a root mean square error of 0.05 cm(3) cm(-3); the error is less than 0.07 cm(3) cm(-3) in 90% of cases. Consequently, soil moisture data should be presented in class intervals of 0.05 cm(3) cm(-3). The utility of this method is demonstrated at the field scale using multitemporal thematic mapper imagery for irrigated areas near Cortazar in Mexico, and for river basin-scale water resources distribution in Pakistan. The potential limitation is the presence of clouds and the time lag between consecutive images with field-scale resolution. With the falling price of optical satellite imagery, this technique should gain wider acceptance with river basin planners, watershed managers, and irrigation and drainage engineers.

publication date

  • 2003
  • 2003
  • 2003
  • 2003