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Mapping soil water content under sparse vegetation and changeable sky conditions: comparison of two thermal inertia approaches

  • Autori: Maltese, A.; Capodici, F.; Ciraolo, G.; LA LOGGIA, G.
  • Anno di pubblicazione: 2013
  • Tipologia: Articolo in rivista (Articolo in rivista)
  • OA Link:


A critical analysis of a thermal inertia approach to map surface soil water content on bare and sparsely vegetated soils by means of remotely sensed data is reported. The study area is an experimental field located in Barrax, Spain. In situ data were acquired within the Barrax 2011 research project. An advanced hyperspectral scanner airborne imager provides images in the visible/near-infrared and thermal infrared bands. Images were acquired both in day and night times by the Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial between 12th and 13th of June 2011. The scene covers a corn irrigation pivot surrounded by bare soil, where a set of in situ data have been collected both previously and simultaneously to overpasses. To validate remotely sensed estimations, an ad hoc dataset has been produced by measuring spectra, radiometric temperatures, surface soil water content, and soil thermal properties. These data were collected on two transects covering bare and sparsely vegetated soils. This ground dataset was used (1) to verify if a thermal inertia method can be applied to map the water content on soil covered by sparse vegetation and (2) to quantify a correction factor accounting for solar radiation reduction due to sky cloudiness. The experiment intended to test a spatially constant and a spatially distributed approach to estimate the phase difference. Both methods were then applied to the airborne images collected during the following days to obtain the spatial distribution of surface soil water content. Results confirm that the thermal inertia method can be applied to sparsely vegetated soil characterized by low fractional cover if the solar radiation reaching the ground is accurately estimated. A spatially constant value of the phase difference allows a good assessment of thermal inertia, whereas the comparison with the three-temperature approach did not give conclusive responses. Results also show that clear sky, only at the time of the acquisition, does not provide a sufficient condition to obtain accurate estimates of soil water content. A corrective coefficient taking into account actual sky cloudiness throughout the day allows better estimates of thermal inertia and, thus, of soil water content. © 2013 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) [DOI: 10 .1117/1.JRS.7.073548]