Mapping field-scale soil moisture with L-band radiometer and ground-penetrating radar over bare soil

François Jonard*, Lutz Weihermüller, Khan Jadoon, Mike Schwank, Harry Vereecken, Sébastien Lambot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Accurate estimates of surface soil moisture are essential in many research fields, including agriculture, hydrology, and meteorology. The objective of this study was to evaluate two remote-sensing methods for mapping the soil moisture of a bare soil, namely, L-band radiometry using brightness temperature and ground-penetrating radar (GPR) using surface reflection inversion. Invasive time-domain reflectometry (TDR) measurements were used as a reference. A field experiment was performed in which these three methods were used to map soil moisture after controlled heterogeneous irrigation that ensured a wide range of water content. The heterogeneous irrigation pattern was reasonably well reproduced by both remote-sensing techniques. However, significant differences in the absolute moisture values retrieved were observed. This discrepancy was attributed to different sensing depths and areas and different sensitivities to soil surface roughness. For GPR, the effect of roughness was excluded by operating at low frequencies (0.2-0.8 GHz) that were not sensitive to the field surface roughness. The root mean square (rms) error between soil moisture measured by GPR and TDR was 0.038 m3 · m-3. For the radiometer, the rms error decreased from 0.062 (horizontal polarization) and 0.054 (vertical polarization) to 0.020 m3 · m-3 (both polarizations) after accounting for roughness using an empirical model that required calibration with reference TDR measurements. Monte Carlo simulations showed that around 20% of the reference data were required to obtain a good roughness calibration for the entire field. It was concluded that relatively accurate measurements were possible with both methods, although accounting for surface roughness was essential for radiometry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5751671
Pages (from-to)2863-2875
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2011


  • Active and passive remote sensing
  • digital soil mapping
  • ground-penetrating radar (GPR)
  • microwave radiometry
  • soil moisture
  • surface roughness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Mapping field-scale soil moisture with L-band radiometer and ground-penetrating radar over bare soil'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this