Soil moisture (SM) space and time variability critically influences freshwater resources, agriculture, ecosystem dynamics, climate and land-atmosphere interactions, and it can also trigger hazards such as droughts, floods, landslides, and aggravate wildfires. Here, we present the first continental assessment of how SM varies at the local scales using [SMAP-HydroBlocks](https://waterai.earth/publication/2021_vergopolan_smaphydroblocks). This study maps the SM spatial variability, characterizes the landscape drivers, and quantifies how this variability persists across larger spatial scales. Results revealed striking SM spatial variability across the United States. However, this SM variability does not persist at coarser spatial scales resulting in extensive information loss. This information loss implicates inaccuracies when predicting non-linear SM-dependent hydrological, ecological, and biogeochemical processes using coarse-scale models and satellite estimates.
We introduce SMAP-HydroBlocks (SMAP-HB), a high-resolution satellite-based surface soil moisture dataset at an unprecedented 30-m resolution (2015–2019) across the conterminous United States. SMAP-HB was produced by using a scalable cluster-based merging scheme that combines high-resolution land surface modeling, radiative transfer modeling, machine learning, SMAP satellite microwave data, and in-situ observations. We evaluated the resulting dataset over 1,192 observational sites. Its largest benefit of SMAP-HB is the high spatial detail and improved representation of the soil moisture spatial variability and spatial accuracy with respect to SMAP products.
Although there have been significant advances in river routing and sub-grid heterogeneity (i.e., tiling) schemes in Earth system models over the past decades, there has yet to be a concerted effort to couple these two concepts. This paper aims to bridge this gap through the development of a two-way coupling between tiling schemes and river networks in the HydroBlocks land surface model. The scheme is implemented and tested over a 1 arc degree domain in Oklahoma, United States.
Drought monitoring and yield prediction often rely on coarse-scale hydroclimate data or (infrequent) vegetation indexes that do not always indicate the conditions farmers face in the field. Consequently, decision-making based on these indices can often be disconnected from the farmer reality. Our study focuses on smallholder farming systems in data-sparse developing countries, and it shows how field-scale soil moisture can leverage and improve crop yield prediction and drought impact assessment.
HydroBlocks is a field-scale resolving land surface model for computationally efficient applications over continental extents. Learn more on the model development & applications [here](../../HydroBlocks).
HydroBlocks A field-scale resolving land surface model over continental extents HydroBlocks is a hyper-resolution field-scale resolving land surface model that accounts for the water, energy, and carbon balance to solve land surface processes at high spatial and temporal resolutions.
Satellite missions measuring soil moisture from space continue to improve the availability of soil moisture information. However, the utility of these satellite products is limited by the large footprint of the microwave sensors. This study presents a merging framework that combines a hyper-resolution land surface model (LSM), a radiative transfer model (RTM), and a Bayesian scheme to merge and downscale coarse resolution remotely sensed hydrological variables to a 30-m spatial resolution. The framework is based on [HydroBlocks](https://waterai.earth/hydroblocks/), an LSM that solves the field-scale spatial heterogeneity of land surface processes through interacting hydrologic response units (HRUs). Our approach was demonstrated for soil moisture by coupling HydroBlocks with the Tau-Omega RTM used in the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission. The brightness temperature from the HydroBlocks-RTM and SMAP L3 were merged to obtain updated 30-m resolution soil moisture estimates.