EGU24-8721, updated on 06 May 2024
EGU General Assembly 2024
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Strenghts and limitations of common soil moisture products for operational drought monitoring

Jaime Gaona1, Davide Bavera5, Guido Fioravanti2, Luca Ciabatta1, Paolo Filippucci1, Stefania Camici1, Hamidreza Mosaffa1, Silvia Puca3, Nicoletta Roberto3, Pietro Stradiotti4, and Luca Brocca1
Jaime Gaona et al.
  • 1Istituto di Ricerca per la Protezione Idrogeologica (IRPI-CNR), Hydrology group, Perugia, Italy (
  • 2Joint Research Center, ISPRA, Italy
  • 3Dipartimento della Protezione Civile, Rome, Italy
  • 4Technische Universität Wien, Department of Geodesy and Geoinformation, Vienna, Austria
  • 5Arcadia SIT, service provider for European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC), Milano, Italy

Soil moisture is a crucial state variable for understanding the water cycle. The increasingly available soil moisture data from remote sensing and models is rapidly facilitating improved hydrological analysis and evaluation of climate change impacts. To discern the degree of alteration of soil moisture, the patterns of spatiotemporal anomalies must be considered, but often product-specific uncertainties are overlooked. Such limitations are of particular concern for the operational monitoring and long-term evaluation of soil moisture.

Among the sources of uncertainty jeopardizing remotely sensed and modeled soil moisture, this study evaluates over Europe (1) the heterogeneous spatial patches of validity, (2) the residual trends in the series, and (3) the sensitivity of anomaly detection to the baseline period of popular soil moisture products such as the Satellite Application Facility on Support to Operational Hydrology and Water Management (H SAF), the passive subset of the Climate Change initiative on SM (CCIp) and the European Drought Observatory (EDO) datasets.

The inter-comparison of these remotely sensed and modeled soil moisture products by triple collocation analysis and against data of the international soil moisture network (ISMN) provides insightful results regarding (1) the contrasting patches of accurate soil moisture estimates, (2) the existence of residual temporal trends in the series, and (3) the differing sensitivity of the products to the baseline period for anomaly analysis. The factors impacting products are subject to debate, particularly concerning spatial and temporal consistency.

Merged products combining H SAF, EDO and CCIp are also assessed to elucidate their potential and limitations for operational monitoring in comparison to individual products. Overall, the combined products equal or exceed the performance of individual products while incorporating specific benefits and drawbacks. Outcomes also inform about the best-performing product by area and period.

All in all, the study illustrates the notable degree of consistency of commonly available soil moisture databases for multiple applications, despite some constraints, while highlighting the potential of merged soil moisture products for the operational monitoring of droughts within the European Drought Observatory (EDO) system.

How to cite: Gaona, J., Bavera, D., Fioravanti, G., Ciabatta, L., Filippucci, P., Camici, S., Mosaffa, H., Puca, S., Roberto, N., Stradiotti, P., and Brocca, L.: Strenghts and limitations of common soil moisture products for operational drought monitoring, EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-8721,, 2024.