Information depth of NIR/SWIR soil reflectance spectroscopy

Sarem Norouzi, Morteza Sadeghi, Abdolmajid Liaghat, Markus Tuller, Scott B. Jones, Hamed Ebrahimian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Proximal and remote sensing techniques in the optical domain are cost-effective alternatives to standard soil property characterization methods. However, the extent of light penetration into the soil sample, also termed soil information depth, is not well understood. In this study a new analytical model that links the particle size distribution and soil reflectance in the near infrared (NIR) and shortwave infrared (SWIR) bands of the electromagnetic spectrum is introduced. The model enables the partitioning of measured reflectance spectra into surface and volume (subsurface) contributions, thereby yielding insights about the soil information depth. The model simulations indicate that the surface reflectance contribution to the total reflectance is significantly higher than the volume reflectance contribution for a broad range of soils that vastly differ in texture, mineralogical composition and organic matter contents. The ratio of volume to total reflectance is higher for sandy soils than for clayey soils, especially at longer optical wavelengths, but the ratio rarely exceeds 15%. Therefore, the light reflection from dry soils is predominantly a surface phenomenon and the information depth in most soils rarely exceeds 1 mm. The results of this study reveal an intimate physical relationship between soil reflectance and the particle size distribution in the NIR/SWIR range, which opens a potential new avenue for retrieval of the particle size distribution from remotely sensed reflectance via a universal process-based approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number112315
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Information depth
  • Optical remote sensing
  • Particle size distribution
  • Soil reflectance spectrum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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