Aaron Berg


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Application of L-band SAR for mapping tundra shrub biomass, leaf area index, and rainfall interception
Qianyu Chang, Simon Zwieback, Ben DeVries, Aaron Berg
Remote Sensing of Environment, Volume 268

Rapid shrub expansion has been observed across the Arctic, driving a need for regional-scale estimates of shrub biomass and shrub-mediated ecosystem processes such as rainfall interception. Synthetic-Aperture Radar (SAR) data have been shown sensitive to vegetation canopy characteristics across many ecosystems, thereby potentially providing an accurate and cost-effective tool to quantify shrub canopy cover. This study evaluated the sensitivity of L-band Advanced Land Observing Satellite 2 (ALOS-2) data to the aboveground biomass and Leaf Area Index (LAI) of dwarf birch and alder in the Trail Valley Creek watershed, Northwest Territories, Canada. The σ° VH /σ° VV ratio showed strong sensitivity to both LAI (R 2 = 0.72 with respect to in-situ measurements) and wet aboveground biomass (R 2 = 0.63) of dwarf birch. Our ALOS-2-derived maps revealed high variability of birch shrub LAI and biomass across spatial scales. The LAI map was fed into the sparse Gash model to estimate shrub rainfall interception, an important but under-studied component of the Arctic water balance. Results suggest that on average across the watershed, 17 ± 3% of incoming rainfall was intercepted by dwarf birch (during summer 2018), highlighting the importance of shrub rainfall interception for the regional water balance. These findings demonstrate the unexploited potential of L-band SAR observations from satellites for quantifying the impact of shrub expansion on Arctic ecosystem processes. • L-band SAR is a skillful predictor for tundra shrub biomass and leaf area index. • High spatial variation in tundra shrub cover captured by L-band SAR. • Distributed rainfall interception by shrub mapped across the watershed. • Amount of interception closely linked to shrub leaf area index.

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Applying Machine Learning and Time-Series Analysis on Sentinel-1A SAR/InSAR for Characterizing Arctic Tundra Hydro-Ecological Conditions
Michael Merchant, Mayah Obadia, Brian Brisco, Ben DeVries, Aaron Berg
Remote Sensing, Volume 14, Issue 5

Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) is a widely used tool for Earth observation activities. It is particularly effective during times of persistent cloud cover, low light conditions, or where in situ measurements are challenging. The intensity measured by a polarimetric SAR has proven effective for characterizing Arctic tundra landscapes due to the unique backscattering signatures associated with different cover types. However, recently, there has been increased interest in exploiting novel interferometric SAR (InSAR) techniques that rely on both the amplitude and absolute phase of a pair of acquisitions to produce coherence measurements, although the simultaneous use of both intensity and interferometric coherence in Arctic tundra image classification has not been widely tested. In this study, a time series of dual-polarimetric (VV, VH) Sentinel-1 SAR/InSAR data collected over one growing season, in addition to a digital elevation model (DEM), was used to characterize an Arctic tundra study site spanning a hydrologically dynamic coastal delta, open tundra, and high topographic relief from mountainous terrain. SAR intensity and coherence patterns based on repeat-pass interferometry were analyzed in terms of ecological structure (i.e., graminoid, or woody) and hydrology (i.e., wet, or dry) using machine learning methods. Six hydro-ecological cover types were delineated using time-series statistical descriptors (i.e., mean, standard deviation, etc.) as model inputs. Model evaluations indicated SAR intensity to have better predictive power than coherence, especially for wet landcover classes due to temporal decorrelation. However, accuracies improved when both intensity and coherence were used, highlighting the complementarity of these two measures. Combining time-series SAR/InSAR data with terrain derivatives resulted in the highest per-class F1 score values, ranging from 0.682 to 0.955. The developed methodology is independent of atmospheric conditions (i.e., cloud cover or sunlight) as it does not rely on optical information, and thus can be regularly updated over forthcoming seasons or annually to support ecosystem monitoring.

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Evaluation of SMAP Soil Moisture Retrieval Accuracy Over a Boreal Forest Region
Jaison Thomas Ambadan, Heather C. MacRae, Andreas Colliander, Erica Tetlock, Warren Helgason, Ze’ev Gedalof, Aaron Berg
IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, Volume 60

Estimating soil moisture (SM) over the circumpolar boreal forest would have numerous applications including wildfire risk detection, and weather prediction. Evaluation of satellite derived SM retrievals in boreal ecoregions is hindered by available in situ SM observation networks. To address this, an SM monitoring network was established in a boreal forest region in Saskatchewan, Canada. The network is unique as there are no other SM network of similar size in the boreal forest. The network consisted of 17 SM stations within a single Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite observation pixel ( <inline-formula xmlns:mml="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML" xmlns:xlink="http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink"> <tex-math notation="LaTeX">$33\times 33$ </tex-math></inline-formula> km). We present an analysis of the sensitivity and accuracy of SMAP SM products in a boreal forest environment over a two-year period in 2018 and 2019. Results show current SMAP radiometer-based L2 SM products have higher correlation with the in situ lower mineral layer SM than with the top organic layer, although the overall correlation is low. Correlations between in situ mineral layer SM and SMAP brightness-temperature (TB) products are higher than those observed with the SMAP SM product, suggesting current SMAP SM retrieval from the TB using the <inline-formula xmlns:mml="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML" xmlns:xlink="http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink"> <tex-math notation="LaTeX">$\tau $ </tex-math></inline-formula> – <inline-formula xmlns:mml="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML" xmlns:xlink="http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink"> <tex-math notation="LaTeX">$\omega $ </tex-math></inline-formula> model introduces large uncertainties in the SM estimation, possibly from uncertain vegetation and surface parameters in the retrieval model. Results show SM can be retrieved using the <inline-formula xmlns:mml="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML" xmlns:xlink="http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink"> <tex-math notation="LaTeX">$\tau $ </tex-math></inline-formula> – <inline-formula xmlns:mml="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML" xmlns:xlink="http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink"> <tex-math notation="LaTeX">$\omega $ </tex-math></inline-formula> model with reasonable accuracy over the boreal forest provided the vegetation and soil parameters are optimized. The SM retrieval using a dual channel <inline-formula xmlns:mml="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML" xmlns:xlink="http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink"> <tex-math notation="LaTeX">$\tau $ </tex-math></inline-formula> – <inline-formula xmlns:mml="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML" xmlns:xlink="http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink"> <tex-math notation="LaTeX">$\omega $ </tex-math></inline-formula> model, which utilize both horizontally and vertically polarized SMAP TB, performs better than that with a single channel algorithm (SCA), using optimized parameters.

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A comparison of three surface roughness characterization techniques: photogrammetry, pin profiler, and smartphone-based LiDAR
Zohreh Alijani, Julien Meloche, Alexander McLaren, John B. Lindsay, Alexandre Roy, Aaron Berg
International Journal of Digital Earth, Volume 15, Issue 1

Surface roughness plays an important role in microwave remote sensing. In the agricultural domain, surface roughness is crucial for soil moisture retrieval methods that use electromagnetic surface scattering or microwave radiative transfer models. Therefore, improved characterization of Soil Surface Roughness (SSR) is of considerable importance. In this study, three approaches, including a standard pin profiler, a LiDAR point cloud generated from an iPhone 12 Pro, and a Structure from Motion (SfM) photogrammetric point cloud, were applied over 24 surface profiles with different roughness variations to measure surface roughness. The objective of this study was to evaluate the capability of smartphone-based LiDAR technology to measure surface roughness parameters and compare the results of this technique with the more common approaches. Results showed that the iPhone LiDAR technology, when point cloud data is captured in a fine-resolution mode, has a significant correlation with SfM photogrammetry (R2 = 0.70) and a relatively close agreement with pin profiler (R2 = 0.60). However, this accuracy tends to be greater for random surfaces and rough profiles with row structure orientations. The results of this study confirm that smartphone-based LiDAR can be used as a cost-effective, fast, and time-efficient alternative tool for measuring surface roughness, especially for rough, wide, and inaccessible areas.


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Sensitivity of C-Band SAR Polarimetric Variables to the Directionality of Surface Roughness Parameters
Zohreh Alijani, John B. Lindsay, Mélanie Chabot, Tracy Rowlandson, Aaron Berg
Remote Sensing, Volume 13, Issue 11

Surface roughness is an important factor in many soil moisture retrieval models. Therefore, any mischaracterization of surface roughness parameters (root mean square height, RMSH, and correlation length, ʅ) may result in unreliable predictions and soil moisture estimations. In many environments, but particularly in agricultural settings, surface roughness parameters may show different behaviours with respect to the orientation or azimuth. Consequently, the relationship between SAR polarimetric variables and surface roughness parameters may vary depending on measurement orientation. Generally, roughness obtained for many SAR-based studies is estimated using pin profilers that may, or may not, be collected with careful attention to orientation to the satellite look angle. In this study, we characterized surface roughness parameters in multi-azimuth mode using a terrestrial laser scanner (TLS). We characterized the surface roughness parameters in different orientations and then examined the sensitivity between polarimetric variables and surface roughness parameters; further, we compared these results to roughness profiles obtained using traditional pin profilers. The results showed that the polarimetric variables were more sensitive to the surface roughness parameters at higher incidence angles (θ). Moreover, when surface roughness measurements were conducted at the look angle of RADARSAT-2, more significant correlations were observed between polarimetric variables and surface roughness parameters. Our results also indicated that TLS can represent more reliable results than pin profiler in the measurement of the surface roughness parameters.

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Implications of measurement metrics on soil freezing curves: A simulation of freeze–thaw hysteresis
Renato Pardo Lara, Aaron Berg, J. Warland, Gary Parkin
Hydrological Processes, Volume 35, Issue 7

Soil freeze-thaw events have important implications for water resources, flood risk, land productivity, and climate change. A property of these phenomena is the relationship between unfrozen water content and sub-freezing temperature, known as the soil freezing characteristic curve (SFC). It is documented that this relationship exhibits hysteretic behaviour when frozen soil thaws, leading to the definition of the soil thawing characteristic curve (STC). Although explanations have been given for SFC/STC hysteresis, the effect that “scale”—particularly “measurement scale”—may have on these curves has received little attention. The most commonly used measurement scale metric is the “grain” or “support,” which is the spatial (or temporal) unit within which the measured variable is integrated—in this case, the soil volume sampled. We show (1) measurement support can influence the range and shape of the SFC and (2) hysteresis can be, at least partially, attributed to the support and location of the measurements comprising the SFC/STC. We simulated lab measured temperature, volumetric water content (VWC), and permittivity from soil samples undergoing freeze-thaw transitions using Hydrus-1D and a modified Dobson permittivity model. To assess the effect of measurement support and location on SFC/STC, we masked the simulated temperature and VWC/permittivity extent to match the instrument’s grain and location. By creating a detailed simulation of the intra- and inter-grain variability associated with the penetration of a freezing front, we demonstrate how measurement support and location can influence the temperature range over which water freezing events are captured. We show it is possible to simulate hysteresis in homogenous media with purely geometric considerations, suggesting that SFC/STC hysteresis may be more of an apparent phenomenon than mechanistically real. Lastly, we develop an understanding of how the location and support of soil temperature and VWC/permittivity measurements influence the temperature range over which water freezing events are captured.

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Summary and synthesis of Changing Cold Regions Network (CCRN) research in the interior of western Canada – Part 2: Future change in cryosphere, vegetation, and hydrology
C. M. DeBeer, H. S. Wheater, John W. Pomeroy, Alan Barr, Jennifer L. Baltzer, Jill F. Johnstone, M. R. Turetsky, Ronald E. Stewart, Masaki Hayashi, Garth van der Kamp, Shawn J. Marshall, Elizabeth M. Campbell, Philip Marsh, Sean K. Carey, William L. Quinton, Yanping Li, Saman Razavi, Aaron Berg, Jeffrey J. McDonnell, Christopher Spence, Warren Helgason, A. M. Ireson, T. Andrew Black, Mohamed Elshamy, Fuad Yassin, Bruce Davison, Allan Howard, Julie M. Thériault, Kevin Shook, M. N. Demuth, Alain Pietroniro
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, Volume 25, Issue 4

Abstract. The interior of western Canada, like many similar cold mid- to high-latitude regions worldwide, is undergoing extensive and rapid climate and environmental change, which may accelerate in the coming decades. Understanding and predicting changes in coupled climate–land–hydrological systems are crucial to society yet limited by lack of understanding of changes in cold-region process responses and interactions, along with their representation in most current-generation land-surface and hydrological models. It is essential to consider the underlying processes and base predictive models on the proper physics, especially under conditions of non-stationarity where the past is no longer a reliable guide to the future and system trajectories can be unexpected. These challenges were forefront in the recently completed Changing Cold Regions Network (CCRN), which assembled and focused a wide range of multi-disciplinary expertise to improve the understanding, diagnosis, and prediction of change over the cold interior of western Canada. CCRN advanced knowledge of fundamental cold-region ecological and hydrological processes through observation and experimentation across a network of highly instrumented research basins and other sites. Significant efforts were made to improve the functionality and process representation, based on this improved understanding, within the fine-scale Cold Regions Hydrological Modelling (CRHM) platform and the large-scale Modélisation Environmentale Communautaire (MEC) – Surface and Hydrology (MESH) model. These models were, and continue to be, applied under past and projected future climates and under current and expected future land and vegetation cover configurations to diagnose historical change and predict possible future hydrological responses. This second of two articles synthesizes the nature and understanding of cold-region processes and Earth system responses to future climate, as advanced by CCRN. These include changing precipitation and moisture feedbacks to the atmosphere; altered snow regimes, changing balance of snowfall and rainfall, and glacier loss; vegetation responses to climate and the loss of ecosystem resilience to wildfire and disturbance; thawing permafrost and its influence on landscapes and hydrology; groundwater storage and cycling and its connections to surface water; and stream and river discharge as influenced by the various drivers of hydrological change. Collective insights, expert elicitation, and model application are used to provide a synthesis of this change over the CCRN region for the late 21st century.

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Soil dielectric characterization during freeze–thaw transitions using L-band coaxial and soil moisture probes
Alex Mavrovic, Renato Pardo Lara, Aaron Berg, François Demontoux, A. Royer, Alexandre Roy
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, Volume 25, Issue 3

Abstract. Soil microwave permittivity is a crucial parameter in passive microwave retrieval algorithms but remains a challenging variable to measure. To validate and improve satellite microwave data products, precise and reliable estimations of the relative permittivity (εr=ε/ε0=ε′-jε′′; unitless) of soils are required, particularly for frozen soils. In this study, permittivity measurements were acquired using two different instruments: the newly designed open-ended coaxial probe (OECP) and the conventional Stevens HydraProbe. Both instruments were used to characterize the permittivity of soil samples undergoing several freeze–thaw cycles in a laboratory environment. The measurements were compared to soil permittivity models. The OECP measured frozen (εfrozen′=[3.5; 6.0], εfrozen′′=[0.46; 1.2]) and thawed (εthawed′=[6.5; 22.8], εthawed′′=[1.43; 5.7]) soil microwave permittivity. We also demonstrate that cheaper and widespread soil permittivity probes operating at lower frequencies (i.e., Stevens HydraProbe) can be used to estimate microwave permittivity given proper calibration relative to an L-band (1–2 GHz) probe. This study also highlighted the need to improve dielectric soil models, particularly during freeze–thaw transitions. There are still important discrepancies between in situ and modeled estimates and no current model accounts for the hysteresis effect shown between freezing and thawing processes, which could have a significant impact on freeze–thaw detection from satellites.


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In Situ Estimates of Freezing/Melting Point Depression in Agricultural Soils Using Permittivity and Temperature Measurements
Renato Pardo Lara, Aaron Berg, J. Warland, Erica Tetlock
Water Resources Research, Volume 56, Issue 5

We present a method to characterize soil moisture freeze‐thaw events and freezing/melting point depression using permittivity and temperature measurements, readily available from in situ sources. In cold regions soil freeze‐thaw processes play a critical role in the surface energy and water balance, with implications ranging from agricultural yields to natural disasters. Although monitoring of the soil moisture phase state is of critical importance, there is an inability to interpret soil moisture instrumentation in frozen conditions. To address this gap, we investigated the freeze‐thaw response of a widely used soil moisture probe, the HydraProbe, in the laboratory. Soil freezing curves (SFCs) and soil thawing curves (STCs) were identified using the relationship between soil permittivity and temperature. The permittivity SFC/STC was fit using a logistic growth model to estimate the freezing/melting point depression (Tf/m) and its spread (s). Laboratory results showed that the fitting routine requires permittivity changes greater than 3.8 to provide robust estimates and suggested that a temperature bias is inherent in horizontally placed HydraProbes. We tested the method using field measurements collected over the last 7 years from the Environment and Climate Change Canada and the University of Guelph's Kenaston Soil Moisture Network in Saskatchewan, Canada. By dividing the time series into freeze‐thaw events and then into individual transitions, the permittivity SFC/STC was identified. The freezing and melting point depression for the network was estimated as Tf/m = − 0.35 ± 0.2,with Tf = − 0.41 ± 0.22 °C and Tm = − 0.29 ± 0.16 °C, respectively.

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L-Band response to freeze/thaw in a boreal forest stand from ground- and tower-based radiometer observations
Alexandre Roy, Peter Toose, Alex Mavrovic, Christoforos Pappas, A. Royer, Chris Derksen, Aaron Berg, Tracy Rowlandson, Mariam El-Amine, Alan G. Barr, Andrew Black, Alexandre Langlois, Oliver Sonnentag
Remote Sensing of Environment, Volume 237

Abstract The extent, timing and duration of seasonal freeze/thaw (FT) state exerts dominant control on boreal forest carbon, water and energy cycle processes. Recent and on-going L-Band (≈1.4 GHz) spaceborne missions have the potential to provide enhanced information on FT state over large geographic regions with rapid revisit time. However, the low spatial resolution of these spaceborne observations (≈45 km) makes it difficult to isolate the primary contributions (soil, vegetation, snow) to the FT signal in boreal forest. To better quantify these controls, two L-Band radiometers were deployed (September 2016 to July 2017) at a black spruce (Picea mariana) dominated boreal forest site; one unit above and one unit on the ground surface below the canopy to disentangle the microwave contributions of overstory canopy, and the ground surface on the FT brightness temperature (TB) signal. Bi-weekly multi-angular measurements from both units were combined in order to estimate effective scattering albedo (ω) and the microwave vegetative optical depth (τ), using the τ-ω microwave vegetation radiative transfer model. Soil moisture probes were inserted in the trunk of two black spruce and one larch (Larix laricina) trunks located in the footprint of the above-canopy radiometer to measure tree trunk relative dielectric constant (RDCtree). Results showed a strong relationship between RDCtree and tree skin temperature (Ttree) under freezing temperature conditions, which led to a gradual decrease of τ in winter. During the spring thawing period in April and May, τ remained relatively stable. In contrast, it increased substantially in June, most likely in relation to the growing season onset. Overall, τ was related to the seasonal RDCtree cycle (r = 0.76). Regarding ω, a value of 0.086 (±0.029) was obtained, but no dependency on Ttree or RDCtree was observed. Despite the observed impact of FT on vegetation L-Band signals, results from continuous TB observations spanning from 14 September 2016 to 25 May 2017, indicated that the main contribution to the observed L-Band TB freeze-up signal in the fall originated from the ground surface. The above-canopy unit showed some sensitivity to overstory canopy FT, yet the sensitivity was lower compared to the signal induced by the ground FT. In April and May, L-Band radiometer FT retrieval agreed closely to the melt onset detection using RDCtree but it was likely related to the coincident presence of liquid water in the snow. Our findings have important applications to L-Band spaceborne FT algorithm development and validation across the boreal forest. More specifically, our findings allow better quantification of the potential effect of frozen ground on various biogeophysical and biogeochemical processes in boreal forests.

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Debris cover on thaw slumps and its insulative role in a warming climate
Simon Zwieback, Julia Boike, Philip Marsh, Aaron Berg
Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, Volume 45, Issue 11

Thaw slumps in ice‐rich permafrost can retreat tens of metres per summer, driven by the melt of subaerially exposed ground ice. However, some slumps retain an ice‐veneering debris cover as they retreat. A quantitative understanding of the thermal regime and geomorphic evolution of debris‐covered slumps in a warming climate is largely lacking. To characterize the thermal regime, we instrumented four debris‐covered slumps in the Canadian Low Arctic and developed a numerical conduction‐based model. The observed surface temperatures 20°C and steep thermal gradients indicate that debris insulates the ice by shifting the energy balance towards radiative and turbulent losses. After the model was calibrated and validated with field observations, it predicted sub‐debris ice melt to decrease four‐fold from 1.9 to 0.5 m as the thickness of the fine‐grained debris quadruples from 0.1 to 0.4 m. With warming temperatures, melt is predicted to increase most rapidly, in relative terms, for thick (~0.5‐1.0 m) debris covers. The morphology and evolution of the debris‐covered slumps were characterized using field and remote sensing observations, which revealed differences in association with morphology and debris composition. Two low‐angle slumps retreated continually despite their persistent fine‐grained debris covers. The observed elevation losses decreased from ~1.0 m/yr where debris thickness ~.2 m to 0.1 m/yr where thickness ~1.0 m. Conversely, a steep slump with a coarse‐grained debris veneer underwent short‐lived bursts of retreat, hinting at a complex interplay of positive and negative feedback processes. The insulative protection and behaviour of debris vary significantly with factors such as thickness, grain size and climate: debris thus exerts a fundamental, spatially variable influence on slump trajectories in a warming climate.

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Satellite-Observed Soil Moisture as an Indicator of Wildfire Risk
Jaison Thomas Ambadan, Matilda Oja, Ze’ev Gedalof, Aaron Berg
Remote Sensing, Volume 12, Issue 10

Wildfires are a concerning issue in Canada due to their immediate impact on people’s lives, local economy, climate, and environment. Studies have shown that the number of wildfires and affected areas in Canada has increased during recent decades and is a result of a warming and drying climate. Therefore, identifying potential wildfire risk areas is increasingly an important aspect of wildfire management. The purpose of this study is to investigate if remotely sensed soil moisture products from the Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) satellite can be used to identify potential wildfire risk areas for better wildfire management. We used the National Fire Database (NFDB) fire points and polygons to group the wildfires according to ecozone classifications, as well as to analyze the SMOS soil moisture data over the wildfire areas, between 2010–2017, across fourteen ecozones in Canada. Timeseries of 3-day, 5-day, and 7-day soil moisture anomalies prior to the onset of each wildfire occurrence were examined over the ecozones individually. Overall, the results suggest, despite the coarse-resolution, SMOS soil moisture products are potentially useful in identifying soil moisture anomalies where wildfire hot-spots may occur.


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A synthesis of three decades of hydrological research at Scotty Creek, NWT, Canada
William L. Quinton, Aaron Berg, Michael Braverman, Olivia Carpino, L. Chasmer, Ryan F. Connon, James R. Craig, Élise Devoie, Masaki Hayashi, Kristine M. Haynes, David Olefeldt, Alain Pietroniro, Fereidoun Rezanezhad, Robert A. Schincariol, Oliver Sonnentag
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, Volume 23, Issue 4

Abstract. Scotty Creek, Northwest Territories (NWT), Canada, has been the focus of hydrological research for nearly three decades. Over this period, field and modelling studies have generated new insights into the thermal and physical mechanisms governing the flux and storage of water in the wetland-dominated regions of discontinuous permafrost that characterises much of the Canadian and circumpolar subarctic. Research at Scotty Creek has coincided with a period of unprecedented climate warming, permafrost thaw, and resulting land cover transformations including the expansion of wetland areas and loss of forests. This paper (1) synthesises field and modelling studies at Scotty Creek, (2) highlights the key insights of these studies on the major water flux and storage processes operating within and between the major land cover types, and (3) provides insights into the rate and pattern of the permafrost-thaw-induced land cover change and how such changes will affect the hydrology and water resources of the study region.

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Fine-Scale SAR Soil Moisture Estimation in the Subarctic Tundra
Simon Zwieback, Aaron Berg
IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, Volume 57, Issue 7

In the subarctic tundra, soil moisture information can benefit permafrost monitoring and ecological studies, but fine-scale remote-sensing approaches are lacking. We explore the suitability of C-band SAR, paying attention to two challenges soil moisture retrieval faces. First, the microtopography and the heterogeneous organic soils impart unique microwave scattering properties, even in absence of noteworthy shrub cover. Empirically, we find the polarimetric response is highly random (entropies >0.7). The randomness limits the applicability of purely polarimetric approaches to soil moisture estimation, as it causes a tailor-made decomposition to break down. For comparison, the L-band scattering response is more surfacelike, also in terms of its angular characteristics. The second challenge concerns the large spatial but small temporal variability of soil moisture observed at our site. Accordingly, the Radarsat-2 C-band backscatter has a limited dynamic range (~2 dB). However, contrary to polarimetric indicators, it shows a clear surface soil moisture signal. To account for the small dynamic range while retaining a 100-m spatial resolution, we embed an empirical time-series model in a Bayesian framework. This framework adaptively pools information from neighboring grid cells, thus increasing the precision. The retrieved soil moisture index achieves correlations of 0.3–0.5 with in situ data at 5 cm depth and, upon calibration, root-mean-square errors of <0.04 m3m−3. As this approach is applicable to Sentinel-1 data, it can potentially provide frequent soil moisture estimates across large regions. In the long term, L-band data hold greater promise for operational retrievals.

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Improving Permafrost Modeling by Assimilating Remotely Sensed Soil Moisture
Simon Zwieback, Sebastian Westermann, Moritz Langer, Julia Boike, Philip Marsh, Aaron Berg
Water Resources Research, Volume 55, Issue 3

Knowledge of soil moisture conditions is important for modeling soil temperatures, as soil moisture influences the thermal dynamics in multiple ways. However, in permafrost regions, soil moisture is highly heterogeneous and difficult to model. Satellite soil moisture data may fill this gap, but the degree to which they can improve permafrost modeling is unknown. To explore their added value for modeling soil temperatures, we assimilate fine‐scale satellite surface soil moisture into the CryoGrid‐3 permafrost model, which accounts for the soil moisture's influence on the soil thermal properties and the surface energy balance. At our study site in the Canadian Arctic, the assimilation improves the estimates of deeper (>10 cm) soil temperatures during summer but not consistently those of the near‐surface temperatures. The improvements in the deeper temperatures are strongly contingent on soil type: They are largest for porous organic soils (30%), smaller for thin organic soil covers (20%), and they essentially vanish for mineral soils (only synthetic data available). That the improvements are greatest over organic soils reflects the strong coupling between soil moisture and deeper temperatures. The coupling arises largely from the diminishing soil thermal conductivity with increasing desiccation thanks to which the deeper soil is kept cool. It is this association of dry organic soils being cool at depth that lets the assimilation revise the simulated soil temperatures toward the actually measured ones. In the future, the increasing availability of satellite soil moisture data holds promise for the operational monitoring of soil temperatures, hydrology, and biogeochemistry.


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Contributions of Geophysical and C-Band SAR Data for Estimation of Field Scale Soil Moisture
Aaron Berg, Mitchell Krafczek, Daniel Clewley, J. Whitcomb, Ruzbeh Akbar, Mahta Moghaddam, Heather McNarin
IGARSS 2018 - 2018 IEEE International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium

In this study we evaluate a Random Forest (RF) model for characterizing the spatial variability of soil moisture based on model derived from in situ soil moisture samples, geophysical data and RADAR observations. The RF model is run with and without C-band SAR backscatter to understand the importance of the inclusion of SAR data for mapping of soil moisture at field scale. The inclusion of SAR data in the RF resulted in a modest improvement however the geophysical parameters (e.g. soil types and terrain properties) were of greater importance.

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Minor contribution of overstorey transpiration to landscape evapotranspiration in boreal permafrost peatlands
Rebecca K. Warren, Christoforos Pappas, Manuel Helbig, L. Chasmer, Aaron Berg, Jennifer L. Baltzer, William L. Quinton, Oliver Sonnentag
Ecohydrology, Volume 11, Issue 5

Evapotranspiration (ET) is a key component of the water cycle, whereby accurate partitioning of ET into evaporation and transpiration provides important information about the intrinsically coupled carbon, water, and energy fluxes. Currently, global estimates of partitioned evaporative and transpiration fluxes remain highly uncertain, especially for high‐latitude ecosystems where measurements are scarce. Forested peat plateaus underlain by permafrost and surrounded by permafrost‐free wetlands characterize approximately 60% (7.0 × 107 km2) of Canadian peatlands. In this study, 22 Picea mariana (black spruce) individuals, the most common tree species of the North American boreal forest, were instrumented with sap flow sensors within the footprint of an eddy covariance tower measuring ET from a forest–wetland mosaic landscape. Sap flux density (JS), together with remote sensing data and in situ measurements of canopy structure, was used to upscale tree‐level JS to overstorey transpiration (TBS). Black spruce trees growing in nutrient‐poor permafrost peat soils were found to have lower mean JS than those growing in mineral soils. Overall, TBS contributed less than 1% to landscape ET. Climate‐change‐induced forest loss and the expansion of wetlands may further minimize the contributions of TBS to ET and increase the contribution of standing water.

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Validation of the SMAP freeze/thaw product using categorical triple collocation
Haobo Lyu, Kaighin A. McColl, Xinlu Li, Chris Derksen, Aaron Berg, T. A. Black, Eugénie Euskirchen, M. M. Loranty, Jouni Pulliainen, Kimmo Rautiainen, Tracy Rowlandson, Alexandre Roy, A. Royer, Alexandre Langlois, Jilmarie Stephens, Hui Lu, Dara Entekhabi
Remote Sensing of Environment, Volume 205

Abstract The landscape freeze/thaw (FT) state plays an important role in local, regional and global weather and climate, but is difficult to monitor. The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite mission provides hemispheric estimates of landscape FT state at a spatial resolution of approximately 36 2  km 2 . Previous validation studies of SMAP and other satellite FT products have compared satellite retrievals with point estimates obtained from in-situ measurements of air and/or soil temperature. Differences between the two are attributed to errors in the satellite retrieval. However, significant differences can occur between satellite and in-situ estimates solely due to differences in scale between the measurements; these differences can be viewed as ‘representativeness errors’ in the in-situ product, caused by using a point estimate to represent a large-scale spatial average. Most previous validation studies of landscape FT state have neglected representativeness errors entirely, resulting in conservative estimates of satellite retrieval skill. In this study, we use a variant of triple collocation called ‘categorical triple collocation’ – a technique that uses model, satellite and in-situ estimates to obtain relative performance rankings of all three products, without neglecting representativeness errors – to validate the SMAP landscape FT product. Performance rankings are obtained for nine sites at northern latitudes. We also investigate differences between using air or soil temperatures to estimate FT state, and between using morning (6 AM) or evening (6 PM) estimates. Overall, at most sites, the SMAP product or in-situ FT measurement is ranked first, and the model FT product is ranked last (although rankings vary across sites). These results suggest SMAP is adding value to model simulations, providing higher-accuracy estimates of landscape FT states compared to models and, in some cases, even in-situ estimates, when representativeness errors are properly accounted for in the validation analysis.

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Capturing agricultural soil freeze/thaw state through remote sensing and ground observations: A soil freeze/thaw validation campaign
Tracy Rowlandson, Aaron Berg, Alex Roy, Edward Kim, Renato Pardo Lara, Jarrett Powers, Kristin Lewis, Paul R. Houser, K. C. McDonald, Peter Toose, An-Ming Wu, Eugenia De Marco, Chris Derksen, Jared Entin, Andreas Colliander, Xiaolan Xu, Alex Mavrovic
Remote Sensing of Environment, Volume 211

Abstract A field campaign was conducted October 30th to November 13th, 2015 with the intention of capturing diurnal soil freeze/thaw state at multiple scales using ground measurements and remote sensing measurements. On four of the five sampling days, we observed a significant difference between morning (frozen scenario) and afternoon (thawed scenario) ground-based measurements of the soil relative permittivity. These results were supported by an in situ soil moisture and temperature network (installed at the scale of a spaceborne passive microwave pixel) which indicated surface soil temperatures fell below 0 °C for the same four sampling dates. Ground-based radiometers appeared to be highly sensitive to F/T conditions of the very surface of the soil and indicated normalized polarization index (NPR) values that were below the defined freezing values during the morning sampling period on all sampling dates. The Scanning L-band Active Passive (SLAP) instrumentation, flown over the study region, showed very good agreement with the ground-based radiometers, with freezing states observed on all four days that the airborne observations covered the fields with ground-based radiometers. The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite had morning overpasses on three of the sampling days, and indicated frozen conditions on two of those days. It was found that >60% of the in situ network had to indicate surface temperatures below 0 °C before SMAP indicated freezing conditions. This was also true of the SLAP radiometer measurements. The SMAP, SLAP and ground-based radiometer measurements all indicated freezing conditions when soil temperature sensors installed at 5 cm depth were not frozen.

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L-band radiometry freeze/ thaw validation using air temperature and ground measurements
Matthew A. Williamson, Tracy Rowlandson, Aaron Berg, Alexandre Roy, Peter Toose, Chris Derksen, L. Arnold, Erica Tetlock
Remote Sensing Letters, Volume 9, Issue 4

Assessment of remote sensing derived freeze/thaw products from L-band radiometry requires ground validation. There is growing interest in utilizing soil moisture networks to meet this validation re...


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Plot-scale assessment of soil freeze/thaw detection and variability with impedance probes: implications for remote sensing validation networks
Matthew A. Williamson, Justin Adams, Aaron Berg, Chris Derksen, Peter Toose, Anne Walker
Hydrology Research, Volume 49, Issue 1

Abstract Several large in-situ soil moisture-monitoring networks currently exist over seasonally frozen regions that may have use for the validation of remote sensing soil freeze/thaw (F/T) products. However, further understanding of how the existing network instrumentation responds to changes in near surface soil F/T is recommended. This case study describes the results of a small plot-scale (7 × 7 m) study from November 2013 through April 2014 instrumented with 36 impedance probes. Soil temperature and real dielectric permittivity ϵr' were measured every 15 minutes during F/T transition periods at shallow soil depths (0–10 cm). Categorical soil temperature and real dielectric permittivity techniques were used to define the soil F/T state during these periods. Results demonstrate that both methods for detecting soil F/T have strong agreement (84.7–95.6%) during the fall freeze but weak agreement (53.3–60.9%) during the spring thaw. Bootstrapping results demonstrated both techniques showed a mean difference within ±1.0°C and ±1.4 ϵr' between the standard 5 cm below surface measurement depth and probes at 2, 10 and integrated 0–5.7 cm depths installed within the same study plot. Overall this study demonstrates that the Hydra Probe offers promise for near surface soil F/T detection using existing soil moisture monitoring networks particularly for the fall freeze.