EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Recent Improvements in the SMAP Level-4 Soil Moisture Product

Rolf Reichle1, Qing Liu1,2, Joseph Ardizzone1,2, Michel Bechtold3, Wade Crow4, Gabrielle De Lannoy3, John Kimball5, and Randal Koster1
Rolf Reichle et al.
  • 1Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, NASA GSFC, Greenbelt, MD, USA (
  • 2Science Systems and Applications Inc., Lanham, MD, USA
  • 3Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, KULeuven, Leuven, Belgium
  • 4Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Beltsville, MD, USA.
  • 5WA Franke College of Forestry & Conservation, University of Montana, Missoula, MT, USA

The NASA Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission Level-4 Soil Moisture (L4_SM) product provides global, 9-km resolution, 3-hourly surface (0-5 cm) and root-zone (0-100 cm) soil moisture from April 2015 to present with a mean latency of 2.5 days from the time of observation.  The product is based on the assimilation of SMAP L-band (1.4 GHz) brightness temperature (Tb) observations into the NASA Catchment land surface model as the model is driven with observations-based precipitation forcing. 

In this presentation, we describe three recent improvements in the L4_SM algorithm.  First, satellite- and gauge-based precipitation from the NASA Integrated Multi-satellitE Retrievals for the Global Precipitation Measurement mission (IMERG) are used in two ways: (i) The climatology to which all L4_SM precipitation forcing inputs are rescaled is based on IMERG-Final (Version 06B) data, replacing the Global Precipitation Climatology Project v2.2 data used in previous L4_SM versions, and (ii) the precipitation forcing outside of North America and the high latitudes is corrected to match the daily totals from IMERG, replacing the gauge-only, daily product or uncorrected weather analysis precipitation used there in earlier L4_SM versions.  Second, the Catchment model now includes the recently developed PEATCLSM hydrology module for peatlands and uses an updated global map of peatlands.  Third, revised parameters are used in the L-band radiative transfer model that converts the simulated soil moisture and temperature estimates into Tb predictions for use in the radiance-based L4_SM analysis.  Specifically, climatological parameters for the scattering albedo, soil roughness, and (seasonally-varying) vegetation opacity were derived from the SMAP Level-2 radiometer soil moisture retrieval product.   

The revised precipitation inputs result in considerably improved anomaly time series correlation skill of L4_SM surface soil moisture in South America, Africa, Australia, and parts of East Asia.  Particularly large improvements are seen in central Australia and Myanmar, where the quality of the gauge-only precipitation product used in earlier L4_SM versions was particularly poor.  In peatlands, the dynamics of water table depth, surface soil moisture and evapotranspiration are considerably improved when evaluated against in situ measurements.  Moreover, the time series correlation of surface and root-zone soil moisture vs. in situ measurements is slightly improved, owing to the improved annual cycle phasing of the Level-2 derived vegetation opacity parameters.  Collectively, these improvements are also manifested in smaller Tb observation-minus-forecast residuals.

How to cite: Reichle, R., Liu, Q., Ardizzone, J., Bechtold, M., Crow, W., De Lannoy, G., Kimball, J., and Koster, R.: Recent Improvements in the SMAP Level-4 Soil Moisture Product, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-1419,, 2023.