In current upscaling of in situ surface soil moisture practices, commonly used novel statistical or machine learning-based regression models combined with remote sensing data show some advantages in accurately capturing the satellite footprint scale of specific local or regional surface soil moisture. However, the performance of most models is largely determined by the size of the training data and the limited generalization ability to accomplish correlation extraction in regression models, which are unsuitable for larger scale practices. In this paper, a deep learning model was proposed to estimate soil moisture on a national scale. The deep learning model has the advantage of representing nonlinearities and modeling complex relationships from large-scale data. To illustrate the deep learning model for soil moisture estimation, the croplands of China were selected as the study area, and four years of Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) raw data records (RDR) were used as input parameters, then the models were trained and soil moisture estimates were obtained. Results demonstrate that the estimated models captured the complex relationship between the remote sensing variables and in situ surface soil moisture with an adjusted coefficient of determination of
= 0.9875 and a root mean square error (RMSE) of 0.0084 in China. These results were more accurate than the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) active radar soil moisture products and the Global Land data assimilation system (GLDAS) 0–10 cm depth soil moisture data. Our study suggests that deep learning model have potential for operational applications of upscaling in situ surface soil moisture data at the national scale.
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