Analyzing the Vegetation Parameterization in the TU-Wien ASCAT Soil Moisture Retrieval

Mariette Vreugdenhil, Wouter A. Dorigo, Wolfgang Wagner, Richard A M De Jeu, Sebastian Hahn, Margreet J E Van Marle

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In microwave remote sensing of the Earth's surface, the satellite signal holds information on both soil moisture and vegetation. This necessitates a correction for vegetation effects when retrieving soil moisture. This paper assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the existing vegetation correction as part of the Vienna University of Technology (TU-Wien) method for soil moisture retrieval from coarse-scale active microwave observations. In this method, vegetation is based on a multiyear climatology of backscatter variations related to phenology. To assess the plausibility of the correction method, we first convert the correction terms for retrievals from the Advanced Scatterometer (ASCAT) into estimates of vegetation optical depth τa using a water-cloud model. The spatial and temporal behaviors of the newly developed τa are compared with the optical depth retrieved from passive microwave observations with the land parameter retrieval model τp. Spatial patterns correspond well, although low values for τa are found over boreal forests. Temporal correlation between the two products is high (R = 0.5), although negative correlations are observed in drylands. This comparison shows that τa and thus the vegetation correction method are sensitive to vegetation dynamics. Effects of the vegetation correction on soil moisture retrievals are investigated by comparing retrieved soil moisture before and after applying the correction term to modeled soil moisture. The vegetation correction increases the quality of the soil moisture product. In areas of high interannual variability in vegetation dynamics, we observed a negative impact of the vegetation correction on the soil moisture, with a decrease in correlation up to 0.4. It emphasizes the need for a dynamic vegetation correction in areas with high interannual variability.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7410033
Pages (from-to)3513-3531
Number of pages19
JournalIEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016


  • Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer-Earth Observing System (AMSR-E)
  • Advanced Scatterometer (ASCAT)
  • soil moisture
  • vegetation optical depth


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