Synergistic use of SMAP and OCO-2 data in assessing the responses of ecosystem productivity to the 2018 U.S. drought

Xing Li, Jingfeng Xiao, John S. Kimball, Rolf H. Reichle, Russell L. Scott, Marcy E. Litvak, Gil Bohrer, Christian Frankenberg

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42 Scopus citations


Soil moisture and gross primary productivity (GPP) estimates from the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) and solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence (SIF) from the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) provide new opportunities for understanding the relationship between soil moisture and terrestrial photosynthesis over large regions. Here we explored the potential of the synergistic use of SMAP and OCO-2 based data for monitoring the responses of ecosystem productivity to drought. We used complementary observational information on root-zone soil moisture and GPP (9 km) from SMAP and fine-resolution SIF (0.05°; GOSIF) derived from OCO-2 SIF soundings. We compared the spatial pattern and temporal evolution of anomalies of these variables over the conterminous U.S. during the 2018 drought, and examined to what extent they could characterize the drought-induced variations of flux tower GPP and crop yield data. Our results showed that SMAP GPP and GOSIF, both freely available online, could well capture the spatial extent and dynamics of the impacts of drought indicated by the U.S. Drought Monitor maps and the SMAP root-zone soil moisture deficit. Over the U.S. Southwest, monthly anomalies of soil moisture showed significant positive correlations with those of SMAP GPP (R2 = 0.44, p < 0.001) and GOSIF (R2 = 0.76, p < 0.001), demonstrating strong water availability constraints on plant productivity across dryland ecosystems. We further found that SMAP GPP and GOSIF captured the impact of drought on tower GPP and crop yield. Our results suggest that synergistic use of SMAP and OCO-2 data products can reveal the drought evolution and its impact on ecosystem productivity and carbon uptake at multiple spatial and temporal scales, and demonstrate the value of SMAP and OCO-2 for studying ecosystem function, carbon cycling, and climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112062
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
StatePublished - Dec 15 2020


  • Carbon cycle
  • Crop yield
  • Dryland
  • Enhanced vegetation index
  • Gross primary production
  • Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2
  • Soil Moisture Active Passive
  • Soil moisture
  • Sun-induced chlorophyll fluorescence
  • Water stress


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