Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

College of Forestry and Conservation

Committee Chair

John S. Kimball

Commitee Members

Anna E. Klene, Steven W. Running


Arctic tundra, Boreal forest, carbon and water cycles, ecological processes, hydrometeorology, land surface processes, microwave remote sensing, remote sensing of ecosystems, soil moisture, soil temperature


University of Montana


High latitude regions are undergoing significant climate-related change and represent an integral component of the Earth’s climate system. Near-surface vapor pressure deficit, soil temperature, and soil moisture are essential state variables for monitoring high latitude climate and estimating the response of terrestrial ecosystems to climate change. Methods are developed and evaluated to retrieve surface soil temperature, daily maximum/minimum air temperature, and land surface wetness information from the EOS Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR-E) on the Aqua satellite for eight Boreal forest and Arctic tundra biophysical monitoring sites across Alaska and northern Canada. Daily vapor pressure deficit is determined by employing AMSR-E daily maximum/minimum air temperature retrievals. The seasonal pattern of microwave emission and relative accuracy of the estimated land surface state are influenced strongly by landscape properties including the presence of open water, vegetation type and seasonal phenology, snow cover and freeze-thaw transitions. Daily maximum/minimum air temperature is retrieved with RMSEs of 2.88 K and 2.31 K, respectively. Soil temperature is retrieved with RMSE of 3.1 K. Vapor pressure deficit (VPD) is retrieved to within 427.9 Pa using thermal information from AMSR-E. AMSR-E thermal information imparted 27% of the overall error in VPD estimation with the remaining error attributable to underlying algorithm assumptions. Land surface wetness information derived from AMSR-E corresponded with soil moisture observations and simple soil moisture models at locations with tundra, grassland, and mixed -forest/cropland land covers (r = 0.49 to r = 0.76). AMSR-E 6.9 GHz land surface wetness showed little correspondence to soil moisture observation or model estimates at locations with > 20% open water and > 5 m2 m-2 Leaf Area Index, despite efforts to remove the impact of open water and vegetation biomass. Additional information on open water fraction and vegetation phenology derived from AMSR-E 6.9 GHz corresponds well with independent satellite observations from MODIS, Sea-Winds, and JERS-1. The techniques and interpretations of high-latitude terrestrial brightness temperature signatures presented in this investigation will likely prove useful for future passive microwave missions and ecosystem modeling.



© Copyright 2007 Lucas Alan Jones