Space-time characterization of soil moisture from passive microwave remotely sensed imagery and ancillary data

Gwangseob Kim, Ana P. Barros

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The statistical structure of soil moisture fields was examined using large-scale images (40 × 250 km) obtained during the Southern Great Plains 1997 (SGP'97) hydrology experiment. In particular, empirical scaling analysis was conducted to investigate the linkages between the spatial and temporal variability of soil moisture, and landscape characteristics including terrain, soils, and vegetation. The results show that the soil moisture fields exhibit multiscaling and multifractal behavior varying with the scales of observation and hydrometeorological forcing. A break in statistical symmetry (multiscaling behavior) was identified, which separates the spatial and temporal evolution of the statistical structure of soil moisture fields for wavelengths below and above 10 km, the α- and β-scale ranges, respectively. Specifically, the multiscaling behavior is consistent with the scaling behavior of soil hydraulic properties as described by soil texture parameters such as sand and clay content. The multifractal behavior is associated with the temporal evolution of drying and wetting regimes, reflecting the nonlinear character of soil moisture dynamics. Finally, Empirical Orthogonal Function (EOF) analysis was conducted to explain the relationship between the spatial structure of estimated soil moisture and that of ancillary data including topography, soil texture, and vegetation cover. Topography appears to dominate the spatial structure of soil moisture only during and immediately after rainfall. In interstorm periods, the spatial evolution of soil moisture is closely associated with the spatial variability of soil hydraulic properties when the soil is above field capacity, while vegetation dominates the evolution of soil moisture fields through evapotranspiration as the landscape dries down.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)393-403
Number of pages11
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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