Spatio-temporal evolution and time-stable characteristics of soil moisture within remote sensing footprints with varying soil, slope, and vegetation Academic Article uri icon


  • Air-borne passive microwave remote sensors measure soil moisture at the footprint scale, a scale of several hundred square meters or kilometers that encompasses different characteristic combinations of soil, topography, vegetation, and climate. Studies of within-footprint variability of soil moisture are needed to determine the factors governing hydrologic processes and their relative importance, as well as to test the efficacy of remote sensors. Gridded ground-based impedance probe water content data and aircraft-mounted Electronically Scanned Thinned Array Radiometer (ESTAR) pixel-average soil moisture data were used to investigate the spatio-temporal evolution and time-stable characteristics of soil moisture in three selected (LW03, LW13, LW21) footprints from the Southern Great Plains 1997 (SGP97) Hydrology Experiment. Better time-stable features were observed within a footprints containing sandy loam soil than within two pixels containing silty loam soil. Additionally, flat topography with split wheat/grass land cover produced the largest spatio-temporal variability and the least time stability in soil moisture patterns. A comparison of ground-based and remote sensing data showed that ESTAR footprint-average soil moisture was well calibrated for the LW03 pixel with sandy loam soil, rolling topography, and pasture land cover, but improved calibration is warranted for the LW13 (silty loam soil, rolling topography, pasture land) and LW21 (silty loam soil, flat topography, split vegetation of wheat and grass land with tillage practice) pixels. Footprint-scale variability and associated nonlinear soil moisture dynamics may prove to be critical in the regional-scale hydroclimatic models. 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

published proceedings

  • Advances in Water Resources

author list (cited authors)

  • Mohanty, B. P., & Skaggs, T. H.

citation count

  • 261

complete list of authors

  • Mohanty, BP||Skaggs, TH

publication date

  • November 2001