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Sensitivity to soil moisture by active and passive microwave sensors

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3 Author(s)
Y. Du ; Dept. of Electr. Eng. & Comput. Sci., Michigan Univ., Ann Arbor, MI, USA ; F. T. Ulaby ; M. C. Dobson

The backscatter measured by radar and the emission measured by a radiometer are both very sensitive to the moisture content mυ of bare-soil surfaces. Vegetation cover complicates the scattering and emission processes, and it has been presumed that the addition of vegetation masks the soil surface, thereby reducing the radiometric and radar soil-moisture sensitivities. Even though researchers working in the field of microwave remote sensing of soil moisture are all likely to agree with the preceding two statements, numerous claims and counterclaims have been voiced, primarily at symposia and workshops, espousing the superiority of the radiometric technique over the radar, or vice versa. The discussion is often reduced to disagreements over the answer to the following question “Which of the two sensing techniques is less impacted by vegetation cover?” This paper is an attempt to answer that question. Using realistic radiative-transfer models for the emission and backscatter, calculations were performed for three types of canopies, all at 1.5 GHz. The results lead to two major conclusions. First, the accepted presumption that vegetation cover reduces the soil-moisture sensitivity is not always true. Over certain ranges of the optical depth τ of the vegetation canopy and the roughness of the soil surface, vegetation cover can enhance, not reduce, the radar sensitivity to soil moisture. The second conclusion is that under most vegetation and soil-surface conditions, the radiometric and radar soil-moisture sensitivities decrease with increasing τ, and the rates are approximately the same for both sensors, suggesting that at least as far as vegetation effects are concerned, neither sensor can claim superiority over the other

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing  (Volume:38 ,  Issue: 1 )