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Discussion papers | Copyright
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2018-442
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 27 Aug 2018

Research article | 27 Aug 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

Global joint assimilation of GRACE and SMOS for improved estimation of root-zone soil moisture and vegetation response

Siyuan Tian1,2, Luigi J. Renzullo2, Albert I. J. M. van Dijk2, Paul Tregoning1, and Jeffrey P. Walker3 Siyuan Tian et al.
  • 1Research School of Earth Science, Australian National University, Acton, ACT, 2601
  • 2Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, Acton, ACT, 2601
  • 3Department of Civil Engineering, Monash University, Clayton, VIC, 3800

Abstract. The lack of direct measurement of root-zone soil moisture poses a challenge to the large-scale prediction of ecosystem response to variation in soil water. Microwave remote sensing capability is limited to measuring moisture content in the uppermost few centimetres of soil. In contrast, GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) mission detected the variability in storage within the total water column, which is often dominated by groundwater variation. However, not all vegetation communities can access groundwater. In this study, satellite-derived water content from GRACE and SMOS were jointly assimilated into an ecohydrological model to better predict the impact of changes in root-zone soil moisture on vegetation vigour. Overall, the accuracy of root-zone soil moisture prediction though the joint assimilation of surface soil moisture and total water storage retrievals showed improved consistency with ground-based soil moisture measurements and satellite-observed greenness when compared to open-loop estimates (i.e. without assimilation). For example, the correlation between modelled and in-situ measurements of root-zone moisture increased by 0.1 on average over grasslands and croplands. Improved correlations were found between vegetation greenness and soil water storage derived from the joint assimilation with an increase up to 0.47 over grassland compared to open-loop estimates. Joint assimilation results show a more severe deficit in soil water in eastern Australia, western North America and eastern Brazil over the period of 2010 to 2015 than the open-loop, consistent with the satellite-observed vegetation greenness. The assimilation of satellite-observed water content contributes to more accurate knowledge of soil water availability, providing new insights for monitoring hidden water stress and vegetation response.

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