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Airborne GNSS-R Polarimetric Measurements for Soil Moisture and Above-Ground Biomass Estimation

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9 Author(s)
Egido, A. ; Starlab Barcelona S.L., Barcelona, Spain ; Paloscia, S. ; Motte, E. ; Guerriero, L.
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Soil moisture content (SMC) and above-ground biomass (AGB) are key parameters for the understanding of both the hydrological and carbon cycles. From an economical perspective, both SMC and AGB play a significant role in the agricultural sector, one of the most relevant markets worldwide. This paper assesses the sensitivity of Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) reflected signals to soil moisture and vegetation biomass from an experimental point of view. For that, three scientific flights were performed in order to acquire GNSS reflectometry (GNSS-R) polarimetric observations over a wide range of terrain conditions. The GNSS-R data were used to obtain the right-left and right-right reflectivity components, which were then georeferenced according to the transmitting GNSS satellite and receiver positions. It was determined that for low-altitude GNSS-R airborne platforms, the reflectivity polarization ratio provides a highly reliable observable for SMC due to its high stability with respect to surface roughness. A correlation coefficient of 0.93 and a sensitivity of 0.2 dB/SMC (%) were obtained for moderately vegetated fields with a surface roughness standard deviation below 3 cm. Similarly, the copolarized reflection coefficient shows a stable sensitivity to forest AGB with equal to 0.9 with a stable sensitivity of 1.5 dB/(100 t/ha) up to AGB values not detectable by other remote sensing systems.

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Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing, IEEE Journal of  (Volume:7 ,  Issue: 5 )