Enhancing PTFs with remotely sensed data for multi-scale soil water retention estimation

Raghavendra B. Jana, Binayak P. Mohanty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Use of remotely sensed data products in the earth science and water resources fields is growing due to increasingly easy availability of the data. Traditionally, pedotransfer functions (PTFs) employed for soil hydraulic parameter estimation from other easily available data have used basic soil texture and structure information as inputs. Inclusion of surrogate/supplementary data such as topography and vegetation information has shown some improvement in the PTF's ability to estimate more accurate soil hydraulic parameters. Artificial neural networks (ANNs) are a popular tool for PTF development, and are usually applied across matching spatial scales of inputs and outputs. However, different hydrologic, hydro-climatic, and contaminant transport models require input data at different scales, all of which may not be easily available from existing databases. In such a scenario, it becomes necessary to scale the soil hydraulic parameter values estimated by PTFs to suit the model requirements. Also, uncertainties in the predictions need to be quantified to enable users to gauge the suitability of a particular dataset in their applications. Bayesian Neural Networks (BNNs) inherently provide uncertainty estimates for their outputs due to their utilization of Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) techniques. In this paper, we present a PTF methodology to estimate soil water retention characteristics built on a Bayesian framework for training of neural networks and utilizing several in situ and remotely sensed datasets jointly. The BNN is also applied across spatial scales to provide fine scale outputs when trained with coarse scale data. Our training data inputs include ground/remotely sensed soil texture, bulk density, elevation, and Leaf Area Index (LAI) at 1. km resolutions, while similar properties measured at a point scale are used as fine scale inputs. The methodology was tested at two different hydro-climatic regions. We also tested the effect of varying the support scale of the training data for the BNNs by sequentially aggregating finer resolution training data to coarser resolutions, and the applicability of the technique to upscaling problems. The BNN outputs are corrected for bias using a non-linear CDF-matching technique. Final results show good promise of the suitability of this Bayesian Neural Network approach for soil hydraulic parameter estimation across spatial scales using ground-, air-, or space-based remotely sensed geophysical parameters. Inclusion of remotely sensed data such as elevation and LAI in addition to in situ soil physical properties improved the estimation capabilities of the BNN-based PTF in certain conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-211
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Bayesian Neural Networks
  • Data
  • Multiscale methods
  • Non-linear bias correction
  • Pedotransfer functions
  • Remote sensing


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