High-Resolution Soil-Moisture Maps Over Landslide Regions in Northern...

Liao, T., S. Kim, A. Handwerger, E. Fielding, M. H. Cosh, and W. H. Schulz (2021), High-Resolution Soil-Moisture Maps Over Landslide Regions in Northern California Grassland Derived From SAR Backscattering Coefficients, IEEE Journal Of Selected Topics In Applied Earth Observations And Remote Sensing, 14, 4547-4560, doi:10.1109/JSTARS.2021.3069010.

Slow-moving landslides are destabilized by accumulated precipitation and consequent soil moisture. Yet, the continuous high-resolution soil-moisture measurements needed to aid the understanding of landslide processes are generally absent in steep terrain. Here, we produce soil-moisture time-series maps for a seasonally active grassland landslide in the northern California coast ranges, USA, using backscattering coefficients from NASA’s uninhabited aerial vehicle synthetic aperture radar at 6-m resolution. A physically based radar scattering model is used to retrieve the near-surface (5-cm depth) soil moisture for the landslide. Both forward modeling (backscattering estimation) and the retrieval (soil-moisture validation) show good agreement. The root-meansquare errors (RMSE) for vertical transmit vertical receive (VV) and horizontal transmit horizontal receive (HH) polarizations in forward model comparison are 1.93 dB and 1.88 dB, respectively. The soil-moisture retrieval shows unbiased RMSE of 0.054 m3 /m3 . Our successful retrieval benefits from the surface and doublebounce scattering, which is common in grasslands. The retrieved maps show saturated wetness conditions within the active landslide boundaries. We also performed sensitivity tests for incidence angle and found that the retrieval is weakly dependent on the angle, especially while using copolarized HH and VV together. Using the two copolarized inputs, the retrieval is also not sensitive to the change of orientation angles of grass cylinders. The physical model inversion presented here can be generally applied for soil-moisture retrieval in areas with the same vegetation cover types in California.

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Earth Surface & Interior Program (ESI)
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