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Remote Sensing of Soil Moisture


Polarimetric, Spatio-Temporally Combined Active-Passive, Measurements of Snow, Bare Soil, Wheat and Herbaceous Vegetation at L, S, C, X, Ku, and Ka-Band Frequencies

Tech Area / Field

  • ENV-MIN/Monitoring and Instrumentation/Environment
  • ENV-WPC/Water Pollution and Control/Environment
  • OBS-NAT/Natural Resources and Earth Sciences/Other Basic Sciences
  • AGR-OTH/Other/Agriculture
  • PHY-RAW/Radiofrequency Waves/Physics

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
ECOSERV Remote Observation Centre Co. Ltd., Armenia, Yerevan


  • Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universitat Bonn / Meteorologisches Institut, Germany, Bonn\nUniversity of Colorado at Boulder / Center for Environmentsl Technology, USA, CO, Boulder\nUS Department of Commerce / National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, USA, CO, Boulder\nDeutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V. / Institute of Radio Frequency Technology and Radar Systems, Germany, Wessling\nGeorgia Institute of Technology, USA, GA, Atlanta\nAlabama Agricultural and Mechanical University / Center of Hydrology, Soil Climatology and Remote Sensing, USA, AL, Normal

Project summary

Polarimetric, Spatio-Temporally Combined Active-Passive, Measurements of Snow, Bare Soil, Wheat and Herbaceous Vegetation at L, S, C, X, Ku, and Ka-Band Frequencies.

The principal objectives of the project are:

  • To develop and to manufacture L (~1.35GHz), and X (~9.6GHz) band polarimetric, combined, short pulse scatterometer-radiometer systems.
  • To develop and to manufacture a short video-pulse (5-10ns video-impulse) ground penetrating radar (GPR).
  • To perform polarimetric, spatio-temporally collocated active-passive measurements of snow, bare and vegetated soil microwave characteristics over a wide range of incidence angles by combined scatterometer-radiometer systems at L (~1.35GHz), S (~3GHz), C (~5.6GHz), X (~9.6GHz), Ku (~15GHz), K (~20GHz) and Ka (~37GHz) band frequencies, and by short video-pulse GPR.
  • To study the feasibility of soil (bare and vegetated) and snow cover moisture retrieval from combining scatterometric (including GPR) and radiometric data acquired from snow, bare and vegetated soils.
  • To validate and to improve existing electromagnetic scattering and radiative transfer models of snow, bare soil and soil vegetation.
  • To develop new methods and algorithms for soil (bare and vegetated) and snow moisture retrieval from combining data of multi-frequency, polarimetric, scatterometric-radiometric and GPR observations.
  • To define frequencies more applicable for soil and snow moistures retrieval and to develop the structure of corresponding radar-radiometer combined system for airborne or ground transportable utilization.

For achievement of the planned objectives a series of polarimetric, spatio-temporally combined active-passive measurements will be performed on pasture and wheat fields at L, S, C, X, Ku, K and Ka-band frequencies over a wide range of incidence angles. For these experiments S, C, Ku, K and Ka-band, polarimetric, combined scatterometer-radiometer systems, a control-test, experimental site with its measuring platforms (stationary and mobile) developed, manufactured and built by the ECOSERV Remote Observation Centre Co. Ltd. (ECOSERV ROC) in the framework of the ISTC Project A-872, will be used. Multi-frequency active-passive measurements will be conducted for various snow, rain, soil and vegetation conditions, including frosted and melted snow conditions, a bare soil situations such as frosted and melted soils, before and after the tillage, etc. A complete set of ground truth data, including the moisture content, snowfall depth, snow water content, soil and air temperatures, rain parameters, etc. will also be collocated.

The proposed research project corresponds to the applied research type of technology development and can be considered as a realizable task in all technical respects. It is partially based on the results of preliminary researches and works carried out in the framework of the ISTC Project A-872 and of the projects NFSAT PH057-02 / CRDF 12012, CRDF FSMP ARG2-5041-YE-04 and CRDF NSMP ARG2-579-YE-04 by the members of the research Team. Available measuring equipment including mentioned above microwave devices, in-situ control-test and calibration facilities of the ECOSERV ROC will provide a successful implementation of the main goals of the project related to development new methods and criteria for real time retrieval of vegetation parameters, snow and soil moisture, and to development more precise models describing microwave emission and scattering from soil and snow.

The main research results and achievements expected are:

  • Methodology for combining data from land surface radar-radiometer observations.
  • Method development for snow and soil moistures precise retrieval.
  • Classification possibilities of observed surface vegetation.
  • Improvement of snow, soil and soil vegetation parameters retrieval's precision.
  • Validation and improvement of existing models of microwave scattering and emission.
  • Development of multi-frequency, polarimetric, combined radar-radiometer system for airborne or ground transportable measurements of snow, soil and soil vegetation parameters in real time with precise retrievals.

Proposed tasks' solution is important and topical for current and future Earth microwave remote sensing programs based on fusion of data from a variety of imaging sensors, which will provide timely and iterative multi-sensor observation data on a global scale. The results of the suggested investigations will make an important contribution in basic researches and would provide new quality in land surface (soil) remote sensing and environmental monitoring. They will provide:
  • Demonstration of a technique for synergy of data from land surface radar-radiometer observation.
  • A study of the microwave reflective-emissive joint features of snow, bare soil and vegetation.
  • New measurements and criteria for real time retrieval of snow and soil moisture and vegetation parameters.
  • More precise models to describe microwave emission and scattering from bare soil and snow cover.

The results of these investigations will have significant economical and social impact too, particularly in agriculture, irrigation, water resource management, environment’s preservation, protection, control and sustainable monitoring, etc. Aerial radar-radio thermal images of observed areas, such as a farmer's fields can be used in agriculture to detect lack of water and fertilizer, as well as for detection of underground water reservoirs and hazardous waste sites (in conjunction with ultra low frequency electromagnetic geophysical systems requiring additional information about upper layer conductivity). Airborne processing of land surface data (soil and soil vegetation) by microwave methods and devices will cost about 0.1-0.2 USD per acre in large-scale practice.

The project implementation will provide an opportunity for 13 former USSR weapon scientists, were earlier engaged in development of methods and radio systems for targets navigation and tracking, targets detection and identification, to redirect their knowledge and skills to peaceful activities particularly in a field of environmental protection. It will promote integration of scientists of CIS states into the international scientific community, particularly of the USA, Canada, EU and Japan. It will contribute to the solution of national and international technical problems applied to the environmental security and protection, hydrology and food program (agriculture and irrigation). Commercial value of anticipated results is high and evidently connects with current requirements to get sustainable information from wide areas of the Earth.

For this research project implementation Armenian and Foreign research teams’ collaboration is essential. There are some reasons for that:

  • Difficulties of experimental tasks solution related to microwave sensors field trials and calibration, soil, snow and soil vegetation microwave, polarimetric, reflective and emissive characteristics measurements.
  • Large capacity of supposed remote and in-situ measurements, data processing and analysis.
  • New models, methods and algorithms development necessity.
  • Methodological and technical complexities of measurements and experimental data processing.
  • Administrative and organization tasks, reports’ drawing, etc.

Three collaborators from the USA, namely: Environmental Technology Laboratory of NOAA (ETL/NOAA), Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Colorado at Boulder (DECE UCB) and Electro-Optics, Environment, and Material Laboratory of Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), and two Collaborators from Germany: Meteorological Institute of the Bonn University (MIBU) and Microwaves & Radar, German Aerospace Center (DLR-HR) have initially expressed their interest and agreement in collaboration and their interest in the Project’s fulfillment and in expected results.

Joint theoretical and experimental researches, exchange of information during project implementation period, mutual review of technical reports, consultations on Intellectual Property Rights, in a case of joint inventions, joint discussions of project results, consultations, meetings at conferences and direct research visits can be the form of the collaboration.


The International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) is an intergovernmental organization connecting scientists from Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia with their peers and research organizations in the EU, Japan, Republic of Korea, Norway and the United States.


ISTC facilitates international science projects and assists the global scientific and business community to source and engage with CIS and Georgian institutes that develop or possess an excellence of scientific know-how.

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