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Coupled modelling of land surface microwave interactions using ENVISAT ASAR data

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Loew, A. (2004). Coupled modelling of land surface microwave interactions using ENVISAT ASAR data. PhD Thesis, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, München.

In the last decades microwave remote sensing has proven its capability to provide valuable information about the land surface. New sensor generations as e.g. ENVISAT ASAR are capable to provide frequent imagery with an high information content. To make use of these multiple imaging capabilities, sophisticated parameter inversion and assimilation strategies have to be applied. A profound understanding of the microwave interactions at the land surface is therefore essential. The objective of the presented work is the analysis and quantitative description of the backscattering processes of vegetated areas by means of microwave backscattering models. The effect of changing imaging geometries is investigated and models for the description of bare soil and vegetation backscattering are developed. Spatially distributed model parameterisation is realized by synergistic coupling of the microwave scattering models with a physically based land surface process model. This enables the simulation of realistic SAR images, based on bioand geophysical parameters. The adequate preprocessing of the datasets is crucial for quantitative image analysis. A stringent preprocessing and sophisticated terrain geocoding and correction procedure is therefore suggested. It corrects the geometric and radiometric distortions of the image products and is taken as the basis for further analysis steps. A problem in recently available microwave backscattering models is the inadequate parameterisation of the surface roughness. It is shown, that the use of classical roughness descriptors, as the rms height and autocorrelation length, will lead to ambiguous model parameterisations. A new two parameter bare soil backscattering model is therefore recommended to overcome this drawback. It is derived from theoretical electromagnetic model simulations. The new bare soil surface scattering model allows for the accurate description of the bare soil backscattering coefficients. A new surface roughness parameter is introduced in this context, capable to describe the surface roughness components, affecting the backscattering coefficient. It is shown, that this parameter can be directly related to the intrinsic fractal properties of the surface. Spatially distributed information about the surface roughness is needed to derive land surface parameters from SAR imagery. An algorithm for the derivation of the new surface roughness parameter is therefore suggested. It is shown, that it can be derived directly from multitemporal SAR imagery. Starting from that point, the bare soil backscattering model is used to assess the vegetation influence on the signal. By comparison of the residuals between measured backscattering coefficients and those predicted by the bare soil backscattering model, the vegetation influence on the signal can be quantified. Significant difference between cereals (wheat and triticale) and maize is observed in this context. It is shown, that the vegetation influence on the signal can be directly derived from alternating polarisation data for cereal fields. It is dependant on plant biophysical variables as vegetation biomass and water content. The backscattering behaviour of a maize stand is significantly different from that of other cereals, due to its completely different density and shape of the plants. A dihedral corner reflection between the soil and the stalk is identified as the major source of backscattering from the vegetation. A semiempirical maize backscattering model is suggested to quantify the influences of the canopy over the vegetation period. Thus, the different scattering contributions of the soil and vegetation components are successfully separated. The combination of the bare soil and vegetation backscattering models allows for the accurate prediction of the backscattering coefficient for a wide range of surface conditions and variable incidence angles. To enable the spatially distributed simulation of the SAR backscattering coefficient, an interface to a process oriented land surface model is established, which provides the necessary input variables for the backscattering model. Using this synergistic, coupled modelling approach, a realistic simulation of SAR images becomes possible based on land surface model output variables. It is shown, that this coupled modelling approach leads to promising and accurate estimates of the backscattering coefficients. The remaining residuals between simulated and measured backscatter values are analysed to identify the sources of uncertainty in the model. A detailed field based analysis of the simulation results revealed that imprecise soil moisture predictions by the land surface model are a major source of uncertainty, which can be related to imprecise soil texture distribution and soil hydrological properties. The sensitivity of the backscattering coefficient to the soil moisture content of the upper soil layer can be used to generate soil moisture maps from SAR imagery. An algorithm for the inversion of soil moisture from the upper soil layer is suggested and validated. It makes use of initial soil moisture values, provided by the land surface process model. Soil moisture values are inverted by means of the coupled land surface backscattering model. The retrieved soil moisture results have an RMSE of 3.5 Vol %, which is comparable to the measurement accuracy of the reference field data. The developed models allow for the accurate prediction of the SAR backscattering coefficient. The various soil and vegetation scattering contributions can be separated. The direct interface to a physically based land surface process model allows for the spatially distributed modelling of the backscattering coefficient and the direct assimilation of remote sensing data into a land surface process model. The developed models allow for the derivation of static and dynamic landsurface parameters, as e.g. surface roughness, soil texture, soil moisture and biomass from remote sensing data and their assimilation in process models. They are therefore reliable tools, which can be used for sophisticated practice oriented problem solutions in manifold manner in the earth and environmental sciences.