Download the paper:
The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission Level-4 Surface and Root-Zone Soil Moisture (L4_SM) data product is generated by assimilating SMAP L-band brightness temperature observations into the NASA Catchment land surface model. The L4_SM product is available from 31 March 2015 to present (within 3 days from real-time) and provides 3-hourly, global, 9-km resolution estimates of surface (0-5 cm) and root-zone (0-100 cm) soil moisture and land surface conditions. This study presents an overview of the L4_SM algorithm, validation approach, and product assessment versus in situ measurements. Core validation sites provide spatially averaged surface (root-zone) soil moisture measurements for 43 (17) “reference pixels” at 9-km and 36-km gridcell scales located in 17 (7) distinct watersheds. Sparse networks provide point-scale measurements of surface (root-zone) soil moisture at 406 (311) locations. Core validation site results indicate that the L4_SM product meets its soil moisture accuracy requirement, specified as an unbiased RMSE (ubRMSE, or standard deviation of the error) of 0.04 m3 m-3 or better. The ubRMSE for L4_SM surface (root-zone) soil moisture is 0.038 m3 m-3 (0.030 m3 m-3) at the 9-km scale and 0.035 m3 m-3 (0.026 m3 m-3) at the 36-km scale. The L4_SM estimates improve (significantly at the 5% level for surface soil moisture) over model-only estimates, which do not benefit from the assimilation of SMAP brightness temperature observations and have a 9-km surface (root-zone) ubRMSE of 0.042 m3 m-3 (0.032 m3 m-3). Time series correlations exhibit similar relative performance. The sparse network results corroborate these findings over a greater variety of climate and land cover conditions.