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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences


Copernicus GmbH (Copernicus Publications)





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The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) carries aboard the Precipitation Radar (TRMMPR) that measures the backscatter (σº) of the surface. σº is sensitive to surface soil moisture and vegetation conditions. Due to sparse vegetation in arid and semi-arid regions, TRMMPR σº primarily depends on the soil water content. In this study we relate TRMMPR σº measurements to soil water content (m(s)) in the Lower Colorado River Basin (LCRB). σº dependence on ms is studied for different vegetation greenness values determined through Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). A new model of σº that couples incidence angle, m(s), and NDVI is used to derive parameters and retrieve soil water content. The calibration and validation of this model are performed using simulated and measured ms data. Simulated m(s) is estimated using the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) model and measured m(s) is acquired from ground measuring stations in Walnut Gulch Experimental Watershed (WGEW). σº model is calibrated using VIC and WGEW m(s) data during 1998 and the calibrated model is used to derive m(s) during later years. The temporal trends of derived ms are consistent with VIC and WGEW ms data with a correlation coefficient (R) of 0.89 and 0.74, respectively. Derived ms is also consistent with the measured precipitation data with R=0.76. The gridded VIC data is used to calibrate the model at each grid point in LCRB and spatial maps of the model parameters are prepared. The model parameters are spatially coherent with the general regional topography in LCRB. TRMMPR σº derived soil moisture maps during May (dry) and August (wet) 1999 are spatially similar to VIC estimates with correlation 0.67 and 0.76, respectively. This research provides new insights into Ku-band σº dependence on soil water content in the arid regions.


Drought prediction; Lower Colorado River Basin; Remote sensing; Soil moisture mapping; Soil water content; Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM)


Environmental Monitoring | Geographic Information Sciences | Natural Resources Management and Policy | Plant Sciences



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