We are pleased to announce the new near real-time global SMOS L3 soil moisture products v003. These products have different averaging periods (and frequency rates): 1-day (daily) maps in both ISEA 4H9 and EASE-2 25 km, and 3-day (daily), 9-day (every 3 days), 1-month (monthly) and 1-year (yearly) maps in EASE-2 25 km. All of them have been generated using the latest version of SMOS L2 soil moisture processor (v650, which supersedes the previous L2 v620). The main improvements of v650 are related to algorithm updates, parameters configuration and auxiliary files changes.
With the L4 all-weather product, we plan to extend the downscaling approach to other climatic regions. See Fig. 1 for an example of its application over Europe on July 1, 2014 (ascending passes). The version 2.0 is also provided (Fig. 2) to illustrate the differences between the two versions.
At Barcelona Expert Center (BEC) we are able to provide a Level 4 (L4) Surface Soil Moisture (SSM) product with 1 km spatial resolution that meets the requirements of land hydrology applications. To do so, we use a downscaling method that combines highly-accurate, but low-resolution, SMOS radiometric information with high resolution, but low sensitivity, visible-to-infrared imagery to SSM across spatial scales. A sample L4 SSM map from September 1, 2014 (6 AM) is shown in Figure 1.
This downscaling approach was first presented in  along with results of its application to a set of SMOS images acquired during the commissioning phase over the Oznet network, South-East Australia. Using reprocessed SMOS data obtained with the latest L1 and L2 processors, we have further developed and validated this technique; we now use SMOS polarimetric and multi-angular information in the downscaling method, which results in improved fine-scale soil moisture estimates .
On January 31st, NASA successfully launched the SMAP satellite onboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket. The satellite, designed to collect high resolution soil moisture maps on a global scale every two to three days, will improve the ability to forecast droughts, forest fires and floods, and will help in crop planning and rotation. On February 24th the reflector antenna was successfully deployed and in the following days the first radiometric data have been acquired.
Image: NASA, United Launch Alliance
In order to obtain detailed soil moisture measurements of the entire world, SMAP is placed in a near-polar sun-synchronous orbit, allowing the observatory to use Earth’s natural spin to maximize the area that can be scanned by the satellite’s instruments. The orbiter will use its L-band radar and L-band radiometer to scan the top 2 inches (5 cm) of our planet’s soil with a resolution of around 31 miles (50 km).
A Soil Moisture (SM) Level 3 product has been created at BEC, and it is now available online.
The Level 3 product is generated from the operational ESA Level 2 Soil Moisture User Data Product (UDP) that include geophysical parameters, a theoretical estimate of their accuracy, and a set of product flags and descriptors.
The nominal L2 SM data is first filtered in order to ensure the quality of our L3 products. Soil Moisture values are rejected if: i) no value has been retrieved for that given gridpoint; ii) the retrieval is negative; iii) the retrieval is outside the extended range; or iv) the associated Data Quality Index (DQX) is larger than 0.07 m³/m³ . Next, a weighted average is performed to bin the data to a EASE-ML grid with cells of 25 km (see documentation for additional information). Products are provided in netcdf format.
After more than three years of continuous operation at ESAC, the Spanish SMOS level 3 and 4 Production and distribution Centre (CP34) has been moved, due to programmatic and funding constrains, to the SMOS Barcelona Expert Center (SMOS-BEC). From BEC, where additional value added maps (e.g. regional 1 km resolution soil moisture products) are being built and generated for some time now, CP34 will continue to provide soil moisture and ocean salinity maps to the international research community
As from July 2013, CP34 operations have been switched off at ESAC and SMOS level 3 and 4 products, including several recent improvements, are directly delivered at SMOS-BEC in a more user-friendly format (NetCDF). Both maps browsing and data files downloading are available.
Since 2012, high-resolution soil moisture products are produced and distributed by BEC as research products. These soil moisture maps, at a spatial resolution of the order of 1 km, can be used to evaluate the soil water content for agriculture management purposes, and, especially important under conditions of extreme drought, to locate specific areas with high risk of fire by combining the soil moisture information with forecasts of air temperature and wind intensity. This was operationally done in the Barcelona area during the 2012 summer.