Likelihood parameter estimation for calibrating a soil moisture model using radar bakscatter

Grey S. Nearing, M. Susan Moran, Kelly R. Thorp, Chandra D.Holifield Collins, Donald C. Slack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Land surface model parameter estimation can be performed using soil moisture information provided by synthetic aperture radar imagery. The presence of speckle necessitates aggregating backscatter measurements over large (>100. m × 100. m) land areas in order to derive reliable soil moisture information from imagery, and a model calibrated to such aggregated information can only provide estimates of soil moisture at spatial resolutions required for reliable speckle accounting. A method utilizing the likelihood formulation of a probabilistic speckle model as the calibration objective function is proposed which will allow for calibrating land surface models directly to radar backscatter intensity measurements in a way which simultaneously accounts for model parameter- and speckle-induced uncertainty. The method is demonstrated using the NOAH land surface model and Advanced Integral Equation Method (AIEM) backscatter model calibrated to SAR imagery of an area in the Southwestern United States, and validated against in situ soil moisture measurements. At spatial resolutions finer than 100. m × 100. m NOAH and AIEM calibrated using the proposed radar intensity likelihood parameter estimation algorithm predict surface level soil moisture to within 4% volumetric water content 95% of the time, which is an improvement over a 95% prediction confidence of 10% volumetric water content by the same models calibrated directly to soil moisture information derived from synthetic aperture radar imagery at the same scales. Results suggest that much of this improvement is due to increased ability to simultaneously estimate NOAH parameters and AIEM surface roughness parameters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2564-2574
Number of pages11
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2010


  • Parameter estimation
  • Soil moisture remote sensing
  • Synthetic aperture radar

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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