Kumar, SV; Holmes, TR; Bindlish, R; de Jeu, R; Peters-Lidard, C (2020). Assimilation of vegetation optical depth retrievals from passive microwave radiometry. HYDROLOGY AND EARTH SYSTEM SCIENCES, 24(7), 3431-3450.

Vegetation optical depth (VOD) retrievals from passive microwave sensors provide analog estimates of above-ground canopy biomass. This study presents the development and analysis of assimilating VOD retrievals from X-, C-, and L-band passive microwave instruments within the Noah-MP land surface model over the Continental U.S. The results from this study demonstrate that the assimilation of VOD retrievals have a significant beneficial impact on the simulation of evapotranspiration and GPP, particularly over the agricultural areas of the U.S. The improvements in the water and carbon fluxes from the assimilation of VOD from X- and C-band sensors are found to be comparable to those obtained from the assimilation of vegetation indices from optical sensors. The study also quantifies the relative and joint impacts of assimilating surface soil moisture and VOD from the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission. The utility of soil moisture assimilation for improving evapotranspiration (ET) is more significant over water-limited regions, whereas VOD DA is more impactful over areas where soil moisture is not the primary controlling factor on ET. The results also indicate that the information on moisture and vegetation states from SMAP can be simultaneously exploited through the joint assimilation of surface soil moisture and VOD. Since passive microwave-based VOD retrievals are available in nearly all weather conditions, their use within data assimilation systems offers the ability to extend and improve the utility obtained from the use of optical/infrared-based vegetation retrievals.