Impact of horizontal and vertical heterogeneities on retrievals using multiangle microwave brightness temperature data

Eleanor J. Burke, W. James Shuttleworth, Paul R. Houser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


This paper investigates the impact of heterogeneity at the land surface on geophysical parameters retrieved from multiangle microwave brightness temperature data, such as would be obtained from the Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) mission. Synthetic brightness temperature data were created using the Common Land (land surface) Model, coupled with a microwave emission model and set within the framework of the North American Land Data Assimilation System (NLDAS). Soil moisture, vegetation optical depth, and effective physical temperature were retrieved using a multiobjective calibration routine similar to the proposed SMOS retrieval algorithm for a typical on-axis range of look angles. The impact of heterogeneity both in the near-surface profiles of soil moisture and temperature and in the land cover on the accuracy of the retrievals was examined. There are significant errors in the retrieved parameters over regions with steep gradients in the near-surface soil moisture profile. These errors are approximately proportional to the difference in the soil water content between the top (at 0.7 cm) and second layer (at 2.7 cm) of the land surface model. The errors resulting from heterogeneity in the land cover are smaller and increase nonlinearly with increasing land-surface heterogeneity (represented by the standard deviation of the optical depth within the pixel). The most likely use of retrieved soil moisture is through assimilation into an LDAS for improved initiation of weather and climate models. Given that information on the soil moisture profile is already available within the LDAS, the error in the retrieved soil moisture as a result of the near-surface profile can be corrected for. The potential errors as a result of land-surface heterogeneity can also be assessed for use in the assimilation process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1495-1501
Number of pages7
JournalIEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2004


  • Land surface
  • Passive microwave
  • Remote sensing
  • Retrieval
  • Soil moisture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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