Gravity Changes, Soil Moisture and Data Assimilation

Jeffrey P. Walker, Rodger B. Grayson, Matthew Rodell and Kevin M. Ellett

Power Point Presentation

Remote sensing holds promise for near-surface soil moisture and snow mapping, but current techniques do not directly resolve the deeper soil moisture or groundwater. The benefits that would arise from improved monitoring of variations in terrestrial water storage are numerous. The year 2002 saw the launch of NASA’s Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites, which are mapping the Earth’s gravity field at such a high level of precision that we expect to be able to infer changes in terrestrial water storage (soil moisture, groundwater, snow, ice, lake, river and vegetation). The project described here has three distinct yet inter-linked components that all leverage off the same ground-based monitoring and land surface modelling framework. These components are: (i) field validation of a relationship between soil moisture and changes in the Earth’s gravity field, from ground- and satellite-based measurements of changes in gravity; (ii) development of a modelling framework for the assimilation of gravity data to constrain land surface model predictions of soil moisture content (such a framework enables the downscaling and disaggregation of low spatial (500 km) and temporal (monthly) resolution measurements of gravity change to finer spatial and temporal resolutions); and (iii) further refining the downscaling and disaggregation of space-borne gravity measurements by making use of other remotely sensed information, such as the higher spatial (25 km) and temporal (daily) resolution remotely sensed near-surface soil moisture measurements from the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR) instruments on Aqua and ADEOS II. The important field work required by this project will be in the Murrumbidgee Catchment, Australia, where an extensive soil moisture monitoring program by the University of Melbourne is already in place. We will further enhance the current monitoring network by the addition of groundwater wells and additional soil moisture sites. Ground-based gravity measurements will also be made on a monthly basis at each monitoring site. There will be two levels of modelling and monitoring; regional across the entire Murrumbidgee Catchment (100,000 km2), and local across a small sub-catchment (150 km2).