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

Uncertainty Estimation for SMAP Level-1 Brightness Temperature Assimilation at Different Timescales

Alexander Gruber1 and Rolf Reichle2
Alexander Gruber and Rolf Reichle
  • 1Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien), Department of Geodesy and Geoinformation, Vienna, Austria
  • 2Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA

In this study, we assimilate Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission brightness temperature (Tb) observations into NASA's Catchment Land Surface Model using an Ensemble Kalman filter to update surface and root-zone soil moisture simulations. Different time series components of the Tb observations are assimilated including anomalies, inter-annual variations, and high-frequency variations. To optimize the weights that the data assimilation (DA) puts on the observations, the ratio between the uncertainties of modeled and observed Tb is approximated using modeled and observed soil moisture uncertainties estimated using triple collocation analysis. Results are compared to a benchmark experiment that mimics the operational SMAP Level-4 algorithm, which assimilates Tb observations using a spatially-constant 4 Kelvin (K) observation uncertainty. 

All DA experiments exhibit notable skill improvements in most regions. Improvements are greatest for the inter-annual variations in the simulations of both surface and root-zone soil moisture (mean improvements in terms of Pearson correlation (-) are 0.08 and 0.06, respectively). Anomaly simulations improve similarly (0.07), and improvements in the high-frequency variations are only observed for surface soil moisture simulations (0.06). Strikingly, however, no notable difference in skill—neither improvement nor deterioration—is observed between the experiments that use optimized observation uncertainty parameters and the 4 K benchmark experiment. We show, analytically, that this may be explained by the presence of large observation operator errors, which have the potential to render post-update uncertainty insensitive to inaccuracies in the Kalman gain. 

How to cite: Gruber, A. and Reichle, R.: Uncertainty Estimation for SMAP Level-1 Brightness Temperature Assimilation at Different Timescales, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-1903,, 2023.