SMAP soil moisture change as an indicator of drought conditions

Rajasekaran Eswar, Narendra N. Das, Calvin Poulsen, Ali Behrangi, John Swigart, Mark Svoboda, Dara Entekhabi, Simon Yueh, Bradley Doorn, Jared Entin

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Soil moisture is considered a key variable in drought analysis. The soil moisture dynamics given by the change in soil moisture between two time periods can provide information on the intensification or improvement of drought conditions. The aim of this work is to analyze how the soil moisture dynamics respond to changes in drought conditions over multiple time intervals. The change in soil moisture estimated from the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite observations was compared with the United States Drought Monitor (USDM) and the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) over the contiguous United States (CONUS). The results indicated that the soil moisture change over 13-week and 26-week intervals is able to capture the changes in drought intensity levels in the USDM, and the change over a four-week interval correlated well with the one-month SPI values. This suggested that a short-term negative soil moisture change may indicate a lack of precipitation, whereas a persistent long-term negative soil moisture change may indicate severe drought conditions. The results further indicate that the inclusion of soil moisture change will add more value to the existing drought-monitoring products.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number788
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2018


  • Drought
  • SMAP
  • SPI
  • Soil moisture
  • United States Drought Monitor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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