Deriving surface soil moisture from reflected GNSS signal observations from a grassland site in southwestern France

Zhang, Sibo ; Calvet, Jean-Christophe ; Darrozes, José ; Roussel, Nicolas ; Frappart, Frédéric ; Bouhours, Gilles

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This work assesses the estimation of surface volumetric soil moisture (VSM) using the global navigation satellite system interferometric reflectometry (GNSS-IR) technique. Year-round observations were acquired from a grassland site in southwestern France using an antenna consecutively placed at two contrasting heights above the ground surface (3.3 and 29.4 m). The VSM retrievals are compared with two independent reference datasets: in situ observations of soil moisture, and numerical simulations of soil moisture and vegetation biomass from the ISBA (Interactions between Soil, Biosphere and Atmosphere) land surface model. Scaled VSM estimates can be retrieved throughout the year removing vegetation effects by the separation of growth and senescence periods and by the filtering of the GNSS-IR observations that are most affected by vegetation. Antenna height has no significant impact on the quality of VSM estimates. Comparisons between the VSM GNSS-IR retrievals and the in situ VSM observations at a depth of 5 cm show good agreement (R2 =  0.86 and RMSE  =  0.04 m3 m−3). It is shown that the signal is sensitive to the grass litter water content and that this effect triggers differences between VSM retrievals and in situ VSM observations at depths of 1 and 5 cm, especially during light rainfall events.
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