Closing the Loop of Satellite Soil Moisture Estimation via Scale Invariance of Hydrologic Simulations

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Surface soil moisture plays a crucial role on the terrestrial water, energy, and carbon cycles. Characterizing its variability in space and time is critical to increase our capability to forecast extreme weather events, manage water resources, and optimize agricultural practices. Global estimates of surface soil moisture are provided by satellite sensors, but at coarse spatial resolutions. Here, we show that the resolution of satellite soil moisture products can be increased to scales representative of ground measurements by reproducing the scale invariance properties of soil moisture derived from hydrologic simulations at hyperresolutions of less than 100 m. Specifically, we find that surface soil moisture is scale invariant over regimes extending from a satellite footprint to 100 m. We use this evidence to calibrate a statistical downscaling algorithm that reproduces the scale invariance properties of soil moisture and test the approach against 1-km aircraft remote sensing products and through comparisons of downscaled satellite products to ground observations. We demonstrate that hyperresolution hydrologic models can close the loop of satellite soil moisture downscaling for local applications such as agricultural irrigation, flood event prediction, and drought and fire management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number16123
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


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