Upscaling ground observations of vegetation water content, canopy height, and leaf area index during SMEX02 using aircraft and Landsat imagery

M. C. Anderson, C. M.U. Neale, F. Li, J. M. Norman, W. P. Kustas, H. Jayanthi, J. Chavez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

203 Scopus citations


Microwave-based remote sensing algorithms for mapping soil moisture are sensitive to water contained in surface vegetation at moderate levels of canopy cover. Correction schemes require spatially distributed estimates of vegetation water content at scales comparable to that of the microwave sensor footprint (10 1 to 10 4 m). This study compares the relative utility of high-resolution (1.5 m) aircraft and coarser-resolution (30 m) Landsat imagery in upscaling an extensive set of ground-based measurements of canopy biophysical properties collected during the Soil Moisture Experiment of 2002 (SMEX02) within the Walnut Creek Watershed. The upscaling was accomplished using expolinear relationships developed between spectral vegetation indices and measurements of leaf area index, canopy height, and vegetation water content. Of the various indices examined, a Normalized Difference Water Index (NDWI), derived from near- and shortwave-infrared reflectances, was found to be least susceptible to saturation at high levels of leaf area index. With the aircraft data set, which did not include a short-wave infrared water absorption band, the Optimized Soil Adjusted Vegetation Index (OSAVI) yielded best correlations with observations and highest saturation levels. At the observation scale (10 m), LAI was retrieved from both NDWI and OSAVI imagery with an accuracy of 0.6, vegetation water content at 0.7 kg m -2, and canopy height to within 0.2 m. Both indices were used to estimate field-scale mean canopy properties and variability for each of the intensive soil-moisture-sampling sites within the watershed study area. Results regarding scale invariance over the SMEX02 study area in transformations from band reflectance and vegetation indices to canopy biophysical properties are also presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)447-464
Number of pages18
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 30 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Landsat
  • Leaf area index
  • SMEX02

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Upscaling ground observations of vegetation water content, canopy height, and leaf area index during SMEX02 using aircraft and Landsat imagery'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this