Indian Forum for Water Adroit

The Global Long-term Microwave Vegetation Optical Depth Climate Archive VODCA

Pankaj Dey

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  • Institute : Indian Institute of Science
  • Programming language : MATLAB, R
Since the late 1970s, spaceborne microwave sensors have been providing measurements of radiation emitted by the Earth's surface. From these measurements it is possible to derive vegetation optical depth (VOD), a model-based indicator related to vegetation density and its relative water content. Because of its high temporal resolution and long availability, VOD can be used to monitor short- to long-term changes in vegetation. However, studying long-term VOD dynamics is generally hampered by the relatively short time span covered by the individual microwave sensors. This can potentially be overcome by merging multiple VOD products into a single climate data record. But, combining multiple sensors into a single product is challenging as systematic differences between input products, e.g. biases, different temporal and spatial resolutions and coverage, need to be overcome.

Here, we present a new series of long-term VOD products, which combine multiple VOD data sets derived from several sensors (SSM/I, TMI, AMSR-E, Windsat, and AMSR-2) using the Land Parameter Retrieval Model. We produce separate VOD products for microwave observations in different spectral bands, namely Ku-band (period 1987–2017), X-band (1997–2018), and C-band (2002–2018). In this way, our multi-band VOD products preserve the unique characteristics of each frequency with respect to the structural elements of the canopy. Our approach to merge the single-sensor VOD products is similar to the one of the ESA CCI Soil Moisture products (Liu et al., 2012; Dorigo et al., 2017): First, the data sets are co-calibrated via cumulative distribution function matching using AMSR-E as scaling reference. We apply a new matching technique that scales outliers more robustly than ordinary piece-wise linear interpolation. Second, we aggregate the data sets by taking the arithmetic mean between temporally overlapping observations of the scaled data, generating a VOD Climate Archive (VODCA).

The characteristics of VODCA are assessed for self-consistency and against other products: spatio-temporal patterns and anomalies of the merged products show consistency between frequencies and both with observations of Leaf Area Index derived from the MODIS instrument as well as Vegetation Continuous Fields from AVHRR instruments. Trend analysis shows that since 1987 there has been a decline in VOD in the tropics and in large parts parts of east-central and north Asia along with a strong increase in India, large parts of Australia, south Africa, southeastern China and central north America. Using an autocorrelation analysis, we show that the merging of the multiple data sets successfully reduces the random error compared to the input data sets. In summary, VODCA shows vast potential for monitoring spatio-temporal ecosystem behaviour complementary to existing long-term vegetation products from optical remote sensing.

The VODCA products (Moesinger et al., 2019) are open access and available under Attribution 4.0 International at
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