In the last few years, research made significant progress towards operational soil moisture remote sensing which lead to the availability of several global data sets. For an optimal use of these data, an accurate estimation of the error structure is an important condition. To solve for the validation problem we introduce the triple collocation error estimation technique. The triple collocation technique is a powerful tool to estimate the root mean square error while simultaneously solving for systematic differences in the climatologies of a set of three independent data sources. We evaluate the method by applying it to a passive microwave (TRMM radiometer) derived, an active microwave (ERS-2 scatterometer) derived and a modeled (ERA-Interim reanalysis) soil moisture data sets. The results suggest that the method provides realistic error estimates. Copyright 2008 by the American Geophysical Union.