Since more than a year ago, the Barcelona Expert Center (BEC) team researches on the capabilities of SMOS for the characterizations of the Cryosphere.
First maps of the Arctic Sea Ice concentration from SMOS data have been produced for the year 2014, with the algorithm explained bellow.
Two indices have been chosen to compute ice concentration: Angular Difference (AD=TBV(θ_2)-TBV(θ_1)) and Polarization Difference (PD=TBV-TBH). The sensitivity of those indices to ice salinity and temperature is much less (about 60%) than that of raw TB’s, but they are still quite sensitive to the physical state (sea or ice). This property is very convenient for the empirical characterization of the physical state, because the distribution of the geophysical parameters is not very well known (specially for the ice salinity).
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.
Fig. 1. SMOS-BEC L4 product from September 1, 2014 (6 AM).
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 .
The 2014-15 edition of the Barcelona World Race (BWR) has had an active ocean observation contribution that will provide new data about the ocean water dynamics and its environmental quality.
In addition to contribute to the build-up of the Argo system by deploying eight Argo profilers during January 2015, the One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton ship carried a Sea Bird SBE37-SI MicroCAT instrument to collect continuous (every minute) sea surface temperature and salinity measurements.
The One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton. Photography by Mireia Perelló from www.barcelonaworldrace.org
The Gulf Stream plays a major role in the meridional transport of heat and salt across the North Atlantic Ocean. The Gulf Stream acts as a barrier between the cold (10-18 °C) and relatively fresh (salinity around 30-32 in the practical salinity scale) waters of the Labrador Current and the warm (23 °C), salty (36), clear, and unproductive waters of the Sargasso Sea. After leaving Cape Hatteras, the Gulf Stream forms large-amplitude meanders that may loop back onto themselves and break off the stream forming detached rings. Warm-core anti-cyclonic rings bring significant amounts of warm tropical water to the continental slope and shelf seas north of the Gulf Stream. Similarly, cold-core cyclonic rings bring cold, nutrient-rich shelf water, to the biologically barren Sargasso Sea waters. Detection of cold-core rings from satellite data has been quite elusive so far as the surface temperature signature rapidly disappears.
Sea Surface salinity on August 23, 2015 according to various SSS products with superimposed OSCAR velocities. The plot on (a) correspond to the one-degree binned Aquarius L3 map. The other three maps show the fusion of the map shown in (s) with: AVISO SSH (b); SMOS SSS (c); and AVHRR SST (d).
The Barcelona World Race Ocean Campus has organised five courses on Instructure Canvas platform to provide the 2014-2015 round the world regatta followers with basic knowledge about the science of oceanography and other subjects like meteorology, telemedecine, chronobiology or nutrition. One of these MOOCs is “Oceanography: a key to a better understanding of our world” that includes a module on ocean remote sensing instructed by Jordi Font. This free course will start on April 20th and does not require previous knowledge in oceanography. Feel free to join us in this worldwide adventure!
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).
Since the beginning of SMOS mission, one of the problems that has strongly affected the quality of the retrieval of SSS from SMOS Brightness Temperatures (BT) is the presence of large human-generated Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) sources, as shown in the following figure:
Image acquired over a coastal area in Europe; several strong RFI sources and the associated tails are very noticeable
Radio Science has recently published “Microwave interferometric radiometry in remote sensing: An invited historical review” by M. Martín-Neira, D. M. LeVine, Y. Kerr, N. Skou, M. Peichl, A. Camps, I. Corbella, M. Hallikainen, J. Font, J. Wu, S. Mecklenburg, and M. Drusch. The paper (Radio Science, volume 49, issue 6, pages 415–449, June 2014, DOI: 10.1002/2013RS005230) is led by Manuel Martín-Neira, the SMOS instrument (MIRAS) principal engineer, and is co-authored by three SMOS-BEC members: Adriano Camps, Ignasi Corbella and Jordi Font. We copy below the paper’s abstract:
The launch of the Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) mission on 2 November 2009 marked a milestone in remote sensing for it was the first time a radiometer capable of acquiring wide field of view images at every single snapshot, a unique feature of the synthetic aperture technique, made it to space. The technology behind such an achievement was developed, thanks to the effort of a community of researchers and engineers in different groups around the world. It was only because of their joint work that SMOS finally became a reality. The fact that the European Space Agency, together with CNES (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales) and CDTI (Centro para el Desarrollo Tecnológico e Industrial), managed to get the project through should be considered a merit and a reward for that entire community. This paper is an invited historical review that, within a very limited number of pages, tries to provide insight into some of the developments which, one way or another, are imprinted in the name of SMOS.
This image of the first ESA ground tests of a MIRAS demonstrator was selected for the cover of the Radio Science issue. The online version of the paper can be seen at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2013RS005230/full
From July 21 to 26, SMOS-BEC host at ICM the 17th meeting of the Ocean Observation Panel for Climate (OOPC) and the 3rd meeting of the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS). The mission of OOPC is to develop recommendations for a sustained global observation of the oceans in relation to climate, while GOOS is a permanent global system for observations, modeling and analysis of marine and ocean variables to support operational ocean services worldwide. GOOS provides accurate descriptions of the present state of the oceans, including living resources; continuous forecasts of the future conditions of the sea as far ahead as possible, and the basis for forecasts of climate change. GOOS is made of many observation platforms including 3000 Argo floats, 1250 drifting buoys, 350 embarked systems on commercial or cruising yachts, 100 research vessels, 200 marigraphs, and more than 200 moorings in open sea.