Evaluation of SMOS retrievals of soil moisture over the central United States with currently available in situ observations

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Abstract

[1] The European Space Agency launched the Soil Moisture Ocean Salinity (SMOS) satellite in November 2009. Using SMOS soil moisture retrievals for 2010 processed using algorithm V4.00, we evaluated SMOS retrievals by comparing them to in situ soil moisture observations for the top 5 cm at several stations in the Great Plains of the U.S. A major issue with comparing the satellite data with in situ data is that a SMOS footprint is about 40 km across and we compare to point observations. To address this issue, we chose locations in Oklahoma that have 10 to 25 different in situ observations within each SMOS footprint. The SMOS retrievals have a dry bias when compared to the average of all in situ stations in a footprint. Large differences exist between the in situ observations, even for probes only a few meters apart. Observations from different sensors within a SMOS footprint differ from each other by a larger amount than they differ from the SMOS retrieval. Removing the mean and normalizing the data bring the in situ observations into better agreement with each other and with SMOS but there are still substantial differences. Agricultural Research Service Micronet regions in Oklahoma had highly varying values of soil moisture despite being in close proximity to one another, but when averaged and compared to SMOS they had less of a bias than the other regions. Further north in the Great Plains, SMOS retrievals of top 5 cm soil moisture from descending orbits were consistently about 5% by volume wetter than ascending retrievals.

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