SMOS prototype algorithm for detecting autumn soil freezing

Julia.Boike [ at ]


A prototype algorithm for hemispheric scale detection of autumn soil freezing using space-borne L-band passive microwave observations is presented. The methodology is based on earlier empirical and theoretical studies of L-band emission properties of freezing and thawing soils. We expand a method originally developed for soil freeze–thaw (F/T) state detection from L-band tower based observations to satellite scale, applying observations from the European Space Agency's Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) mission. The developed algorithm is based on first establishing spatially variable thresholds for L-band brightness temperatures representing frozen and thawed states of soil, and comparing these to current values of different indicators of soil freezing, calculated based on observed brightness temperature at different polarizations and incidence angles. An exponential relation between the freezing indicators and the depth of soil frost is developed based on a large amount of manual soil frost tube observations across Finland. An additional processing filter based on observed physical temperature and snow cover information is used to flag obvious F/T detection errors. The estimated soil F/T-states provided in this study are limited to the autumn freezing period, as melting snow in spring effectively prevents acquisition of information from the soil surface using microwaves for large areas in Northern latitudes. The F/T estimate is produced as daily information and provided in the equal-area scalable Earth (EASE) grid. Soil F/T-state is categorized into three discrete levels: ‘frozen’, ‘partially frozen’, and ‘thawed’, and accompanied with a quality data matrix estimating the data reliability for each freezing season separately. Comparisons to in situ data were conducted at 10 different locations in Finland, Northern America and Siberia. These comparison results indicate that the onset of autumn soil freezing can be estimated from SMOS observations to within 1 to 14 days, depending on the freezing indicator applied and the in situ data used in comparison. Although the initial results are encouraging, more comprehensive assessment of SMOS based soil F/T estimates still requires further comparison to other reference sites, particularly to sites with measurements available for all locally representative land cover types, as well as other satellite-based soil freezing products.

Item Type
Primary Division
Primary Topic
Research Networks
Peer revision
ISI/Scopus peer-reviewed
Publication Status
Eprint ID
DOI 10.1016/j.rse.2016.01.012

Cite as
Rautiainen, K. , Parkkinen, T. , Lemmetyinen, J. , Schwank, M. , Wiesmann, A. , Ikonen, J. , Derksen, C. , Davydov, S. , Davydova, A. , Boike, J. , Langer, M. , Drusch, M. and Pulliainen, J. (2016): SMOS prototype algorithm for detecting autumn soil freezing , Remote Sensing of Environment, 180 , pp. 346-360 . doi: 10.1016/j.rse.2016.01.012



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