Validation of satellite soil moisture in the absence of in situ soil moisture: the case of the Tropical Yankin Basin
Soil moisture is known to be important in hydrology, agronomy, flood and drought forecasting. Acquisition of in situ soil moisture data is time consuming, costly, and does not cover the scale required for basin analysis. The consideration of remotely-sensed soil moisture is therefore promising. However, considering the limitations of satellite data, there is a need to check their validity prior to their utilization for impact studies. This, in turn, poses a problem in the absence of in situ soil moisture. The present study suggests a methodology for testing the validity of remotely-sensed soil moisture without in situ soil moisture. Hydrological models with a detailed soil moisture routine are calibrated and validated with measured stream flows. The most behavioural solutions of modelled soil moistures are averaged, and used as proxy measurements. This methodology was applied to the Yankin Basin (8,171 km2), a tributary of the Niger River Basin. The soil moistures of three hydrological models (UHP-HRU, SWAT and WaSiM) used as proxy were compared with the daily ESA-CCI soil moisture for a four year period (2005-2008). The coefficient of determination (R2), bias and visual inspection were used as quality criteria. A rather small bias ranging from -0.01cm3/cm3 (SWAT & UHP-HRU) to -0.04cm3/cm3 (WaSiM &UHP-HRU) was determined as well as good R2 varying between 0.71 (SWAT & UHP-HRU) and 0.81 (WaSiM & SWAT & UHP-HRU). The ESA-CCI soil moisture was therefore judged as reliable for the study area. More important, this research shows that averaging soil moistures from different hydrological models provides valuable proxy measurements for testing the reliability of satellite soil moistures.