Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (Aug 2011)

Operational assimilation of ASCAT surface soil wetness at the Met Office

  • I. Dharssi,
  • K. J. Bovis,
  • B. Macpherson,
  • C. P. Jones

DOI
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-15-2729-2011
Journal volume & issue
Vol. 15, no. 8
pp. 2729 – 2746

Abstract

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Currently, no extensive, near real time, global soil moisture observation network exists. Therefore, the Met Office global soil moisture analysis scheme has instead used observations of screen temperature and humidity. A number of new space-borne remote sensing systems, operating at microwave frequencies, have been developed that provide a more direct retrieval of surface soil moisture. These systems are attractive since they provide global data coverage and the horizontal resolution is similar to weather forecasting models. Several studies show that measurements of normalised backscatter (surface soil wetness) from the Advanced Scatterometer (ASCAT) on the meteorological operational (MetOp) satellite contain good quality information about surface soil moisture. This study describes methods to convert ASCAT surface soil wetness measurements to volumetric surface soil moisture together with bias correction and quality control. A computationally efficient nudging scheme is used to assimilate the ASCAT volumetric surface soil moisture data into the Met Office global soil moisture analysis. This ASCAT nudging scheme works alongside a soil moisture nudging scheme that uses observations of screen temperature and humidity. Trials, using the Met Office global Unified Model, of the ASCAT nudging scheme show a positive impact on forecasts of screen temperature and humidity for the tropics, North America and Australia. A comparison with in-situ soil moisture measurements from the US also indicates that assimilation of ASCAT surface soil wetness improves the soil moisture analysis. Assimilation of ASCAT surface soil wetness measurements became operational during July 2010.