In recent years, unforeseen advances in monitoring soil moisture from operational satellite platforms have been made, mainly due to improved geophysical retrieval methods. In this study, four recently published soil-moisture datasets are compared with in-situ observations from the REMEDHUS monitoring network located in the semi-arid part of the Duero basin in Spain. The remotely sensed soil-moisture products are retrieved from (1) the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR-E), which is a passive microwave sensor on-board NASA's Aqua satellite, (2) European Remote Sensing satellite (ERS) scatterometer, which is an active microwave sensor on-board the two ERS satellites and (3) visible and thermal images from the METEOSAT satellite. Statistical analysis indicates that three satellite datasets contribute effectively to the monitoring of trends in surface soil-moisture conditions, but not to the estimation of absolute soil-moisture values. These sensors, or rather their successors, will be flown on operational meteorological satellites in the near future. With further improvements in processing techniques, operational meteorological satellites will increasingly deliver high-quality soil-moisture data. This may be of particular interest for hydrogeological studies that investigate long-term processes such as groundwater recharge. © Springer-Verlag 2006.