GNSS Soil Moisture
- Foreground: GNSS station at Sutherland, Background (right): in-situ soil moisture sensors
- © GFZ
In the framework of the Helmholtz Alliance „Remote
Sensing and Earth System Dynamics “ we started a three-year
research project in order to estimate soil moisture from data of
ground-based GNSS stations (Global Navigation Satellite Systems). We
will analyse GPS signals, which are reflected in the direct
surrounding of the station. The project is involved in the network of
TERENO  (TERrestrial ENvironmental Observatories). The scientific
project tasks are carried out in very close cooperation with the
section 5.4. Hydrology  of the GFZ. The estimation of soil moisture
helps to improve the quantification ot the hydrological cycle.
Measurements of soil moisture are important for irrigation management,
flood prediction, contaminant and nutrient transport, weather forecast
and climate studies. However, obtaining soil moisture data at the
field scale is a challenge as soil moisture measurements are generally
point measurements with small sampling volumes. Observations of remote
sensing satellites, e.g.SMOS, on the other hand have large footprints
of several kilometres and come with the disadvantage of low temporal
resolution. Therefore the use of data from ground based GNSS stations
to estimate near-surface soil moisture variations seems to be a
promising methodology to obtain field averages of soil moisture at
high temporal resolution .
In a case study for Sutherland, South Africa we analyse data from a permanent GNSS station from January until July 2013. The analysis of the GNSS data is based on the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of the GNSS signals. From the interference pattern of the SNR, which are caused by the combination of the direct and indirect signal, we derive the penetration depth of the GNSS signal into the ground . The penetration depth depends on near-surface soil moisture and can be converted to soil moisture variations . The soil moisture variations obtained from GNSS data capture very well precipitation events and subsequent evapotranspiration. In comparison with the soil moisture observations from in-situ soil moisture sensors the GNSS estimates shows slightly different absolute values. However, the variations in soil moisture from the two techniques agree very well. Near-surface soil moisture estimates from GNSS observations have the potential to complement soil moisture monitoring networks at many sites worldwide.
In the frame work of the Helmholtz Virtual Institute DEad SEa Research (DESERVE ) 3 GNSS stations were installed in the Dead Sea area, which serve amongst others for soil moisture estimation.
 K. Larson, J. Braun, E. Small, V. Zavorotny, E. Gutmann, and A. Bilich, GPS multipath and its relation to near-surface soil moisture content, IEEE J. Sel. Topics Appl. Earth Observ. Remote Sens., vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 91–99, Mar. 2010.
 S. Vey, A. Güntner, J. Wickert, T. Blume and M. Ramatschi, Long-term soil moisture dynamics derived from GNSS reflectometry: A case study for Sutherland, South Africa, submitted to GPS solution, 2015.
 C. Chew, E. Small, K. Larson and V. Zavorotny, Effects of Near-Surface Soil Moisture on GPS SNR Data: Development of a Retrieval Algorithm for Soil, IEEE Transactions on Geosciences and Remote Sens., doi: 10.1109/TGRS.2013.2242332, Dec. 2012.
 S. Vey, A. Güntner, J. Wickert, T. Blume, H. Thoss and M. Ramatschi, Monitoring snow depth with GNSS reflectometry, oral presentation at GNSS+R 2015 Workshop, 11-13 May 2015, Potsdam, Germany, 2015.