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Soil moisture retrieval from MODIS data in Northern China Plain using thermal inertia model

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Soil moisture plays an important role in surface energy balances, regional runoff, potential drought and crop yield. Early detection of potential drought or flood is important for the local government and people to take actions to protect their crop. Traditionally measurement of soil moisture is a time-consuming job and only limited samples could be collected. Many problems would be results from extending those point measurements to 2D space, especially for a regional area with heterogeneous soil characteristics. The emergency of remote-sensing technology makes it possible to rapidly monitor soil moisture on a regional scale. Thermal inertia represents the ability of a material to conduct and store heat, and in the context of planetary science, it is a measure of the subsurface's ability to store heat during the day and reradiate it during the night. One major application of thermal inertia is to monitor soil moisture. In this paper, a thermal inertia model was developed to be suitable in situations whether or not the satellite overpass time coincides with the local maximum and minimum temperature time. Besides, the sensibilities of thermal inertia with surface albedo and the surface temperature difference were discussed. It shows that the surface temperature difference has more effects on the thermal inertia than the surface albedo. When the temperature difference is less than 10 Kelvin degrees, 1 Kelvin degree error of temperature difference will lead to a big fluctuation of thermal inertia. When the temperature difference is more than 10 Kelvin degrees, 1 Kelvin degree error of temperature difference will cause a small change of thermal inertia. The temperature difference should be larger than 10 Kelvin degrees when the thermal inertia model is selected to derive soil moisture or other applications. Based on this thermal inertia model, the soil moisture map was obtained for North China Plain. It shows that the averaged difference between the soil moisture values derived from MODIS data and in situ measured soil moisture data is 4.32%. This model is promising for monitoring soil moisture on a large regional scale.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Key Laboratory of Poyang Lake Ecological Environment and Resource Development (Jiangxi Normal University), Nanchang, China

Publication date: 2007-01-01

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