Monitoring Soil Moisture from Space. Dr. Heather McNairn Science and Technology Branch Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

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1 Monitoring Soil Moisture from Space Dr. Heather McNairn Science and Technology Branch Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

2 What is Remote Sensing? Scientists turn the raw data collected by satellites into information about the Earth For agriculture this includes information on: - crop type - crop condition - soil moisture - tillage

3 How Remote Sensing Works Sensors detect amount of energy emitted or scattered. This is recorded as an amount of energy per unit area. Amount of energy that reaches the sensor depends on the target characteristics and the wavelengths used IR G R B Example: chlorophyll in healthy vegetation absorbs energy in red and blue wavelengths and reflects in green; internal structure acts as excellent diffuse reflectors of near-infrared wavelengths Example: water has high dielectric constant; when microwave energy excites soil with high moisture, most of energy is released and scattered back to sensor Scientists develop methods to link the amount of energy to the soil or crop characteristic models (empirical, semi-empirical, physical) classifiers to find targets which reflect/emit similar amounts of energy other techniques: spectral unmixing, indices etc. Scientists also develop pre-processing methods (corrections and calibrations) 3

4 The Sensors Sensors differ in a number of ways wavelengths used (optical vs microwave) active (provide own energy) or passive (record ambient energy) swaths that single image covers (10s km to 1000 km) spatial resolution (< 1 metre to 50 km) temporal revisit (daily to every few weeks) Large number of international data providers, both commercial and Space Agencies Commercial data primarily at very high resolutions; Space Agencies are moving towards free and open data policies 4 m 30 m Indian Head, Saskatchewan 4

5 Why Monitor Soil Moisture drought: cost the Canadian economy $5.8 billion 2010 excessive moisture in Canadian Prairies: reduced productive capacity of over 15 million acres, affecting 30,000 producers, resulting in production losses of more than $2.4 billion 2014: Close to 100 communities in Manitoba and Saskatchewan flooded; 400,000 hectares of farmland left unseeded (estimated). Manitoba declares state of emergency. Response Fed-Prov Programs for Agricultural Production Losses : > $420M* spent by Agri-Recovery on climate related disasters mostly related to excess moisture. In addition, $895M spent on Crop Insurance programs : > $400M spent by Agri-Recovery on climate related disasters. In addition, $767M spent on Crop Insurance programs. Soil moisture is highly variable in time and in space, thus difficult to monitor on the ground

6 Why Use Radar Technology Synthetic Aperture Radar satellites (SARs) are a critical source of data when timeliness is very important, for example during periods of emerging risks Radars are highly sensitive to the soil dielectric, from which volumetric soil moisture can be modelled Caveats: Radars sense only the top few centimetres of soil and vegetation significantly interferes with radar signals Did you know: Canada has been a world leader in the development, operation and use of SAR technologies, since the launch of RADARSAT-1 in 1995 RADARSAT-2 was launched in 2007 and Canada is currently planning for the next generation 3-satellite constellation (RADARSAT-Constellation) 6

7 RADARSAT-2 Mosaic of Canada (May 2013)

8 Estimating Soil Moisture - How Do We Do It? RADARSAT-2 C-Band SAR Data No a priori information is needed IEM with Fresnel Equations Soil moisture is retrieved using only SAR data (backscatter and incidence angle) Radar Data (HH and VV Backscatter) (Radar Angle) Soils Data (Clay and Sand Fractions) Real Dielectric Dielectric Mixing Model April 25, 2012 Source: Amine Merzouki/Jarrett Powers

9 How Do We Know The Estimates Are Accurate? Real-time In-Situ Soil Monitoring for Agriculture (RISMA) Soil moisture: 0-5, 5, 20, 50, 100 cm Meteorological measurements: soil temperature, precipitation, air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, wind direction Real time delivery of quality checked and calibrated soil moisture data, as well as meteorological data Accessible through Field Vision web site ( 9

10 How Accurate are the Soil Moisture Estimates? Station 1 Station 2 Station 3 Station 4 Inversion method Multipolarization Hybrid Retrieved parameter MAE IA R RDC VSM 8.13% RDC VSM 4.13%

11 Soil Moisture Mapping Tools Near Real Time RADARSAT Tool Box Soil Moisture Toolkit Producing near real time soil moisture maps

12 Regional Soil Moisture Maps Field/Watershed Scale Soil Moisture From RADARSAT-2 Source: Hassan Bhuiyan (AAFC PDF) Integrating in stream flow forecasting in collaboration with the Manitoba Flood Forecast Centre

13 What s Next New Sensor Technology RADARSAT-1 ( ) RADARSAT-2 (2007-) RADARSAT-Constellation - launch 2018 Advances in radar technologies Canadian SARs (RADARSAT-Constellation) 3 satellites to be launched in 2018 AAFC is being funded by Canadian Space Agency to operationalize soil moisture methods, to offer public soil moisture products Foreign missions Offers redundancy in data (European Space Agency) Other radar frequencies (Argentina, Japan, Germany)

14 What s Next New Models for Vegetation Radar backscatter = f (soil moisture, surface roughness, vegetation) RMSE (m 2 m 2 ) MAE (m 2 m 2 ) R Corn HH-HV Corn VV-HV Soybeans HH-HV SoybeansVV-HV

15 Summary Soil moisture, especially extremes in soil moisture, are risk factors for crop production Satellites are excellent sources to provide temporally frequent data over large regions Radars, in particular, are very sensitive to surface soil moisture AAFC scientists have developed a method to estimate absolute soil moisture to errors of 5-10 m 3 m -3 software tools have been developed to estimate soil moisture using Canada s RADARSAT-2 satellite next steps are to extend this to new sensor technologies and new conditions also working to integrate soil moisture products in flood forecasting and crop disease risk assessment 15

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