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Uncertainty of reference pixel soil moisture averages sampled at SMAP core validation sites

July 29, 2019

Despite extensive efforts to maximize ground coverage and improve upscaling functions within core validation sites (CVS) of the NASA Soil Moisture Active/Passive (SMAP) mission, spatial averages of point-scale soil moisture observations often fail to accurately capture the true average of the reference pixels. Therefore, some level of pixel-scale sampling error from in situ observations must be considered during the validation of SMAP soil moisture retrievals. Here, uncertainties in the SMAP core site average soil moisture (CSASM) due to spatial sampling errors are examined and their impact on CSASM-based SMAP calibration and validation metrics is discussed. The estimated uncertainty (due to spatial sampling limitations) of mean CSASM over time is found to be large, translating into relatively large sampling uncertainty levels for SMAP retrieval bias when calculated against CSASM. As a result, CSASM-based SMAP bias estimates are statistically insignificant at nearly all SMAP CVS. In addition, observations from temporary networks suggest that these (already large) bias uncertainties may be underestimated due to under-sampled spatial variability. The unbiased root-mean-square error (ubRMSE) of CSASM is estimated via two approaches: classical sampling theory and triple collocation, both of which suggest that CSASM ubRMSE is generally within the range 0.01 to 0.02 m3/m3. Although limitations in both methods likely lead to underestimation of ubRMSE, the results suggest that CSASM captures the temporal dynamics of the footprint-scale soil moisture relatively well and is thus a reliable reference for SMAP ubRMSE calculations. Therefore, spatial sampling errors are revealed to have very different impacts on efforts to estimate SMAP bias and ubRMSE metrics using CVS data.

Publication Year 2019
Title Uncertainty of reference pixel soil moisture averages sampled at SMAP core validation sites
DOI 10.1175/JHM-D-19-0049.1
Authors Fan Chen, W.T Crow, M.H. Cosh, A. Colliander, J. Asanuma, A. Berg, D.D. Bosch, Todd Caldwell, C. Holifield-Collins, J. Martínez-Fernández, H. McNairn, P.J. Starks, Z. Su, J.P. Walker
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Hydrometeorology
Index ID 70204624
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Nevada Water Science Center