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Center Independent Research & Development: GSFC IRAD

High Spatial Resolution Capability for Microwave based All Weather Global Evapotranspiration Measurements

Active Technology Project

Project Introduction

We propose to develop the driving technologies for a passive microwave (PMW) radiometer optimized for land surface temperature (LST) retrieval at 3 km spatial resolution.  Increasing the spatial resolution of the MW radiometer by a factor of 3 is targeted to remove a key bottleneck in current capabilities to monitor terrestrial evapotranspiration (ET) through thermal-based energy balance approaches.

Knowledge of ET at global scales is a critical component of global water balance studies.  The need for global observations of ET with a high spatial and temporal resolution to address important questions related to water availability, crop productivity and their vulnerability to climate change was identified by the Hydrological and Biospheric Sciences labs at GSFC (Joseph et al 2016: “Characterizing evapotranspiration, ecosystem productivity and water stress to address global food and water security”, whitepaper in response to ESAS 2017 Request for Information #2).  This IRAD will specifically address technological questions related to the microwave instrument configuration and capabilities, which form a crucial part of that whitepaper.  

The current stock of microwave radiometers offers spatial resolutions on the order of 10-25 km.  This spatial resolution is appropriate in the context of multichannel retrievals of soil moisture where the spatial resolution is driven by lower frequency channels.  However, in the context of thermal-based ET retrieval, the limit to spatial resolution is LST itself. Technological developments in the past years have made it possible to now propose a big step increase in spatial resolution of MW imaging radiometers. 

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