A new perspective on global vegetation water dynamics from radar satellite data

Monitoring radar backscatter

Improved understanding of how vegetation regulates land-atmosphere exchanges of water, carbon and energy will benefit hydrology, water management and climate science. Radar backscatter depends on soil moisture, vegetation structure, and the moisture content of the vegetation constituents. Satellite radar observations could therefore provide unique insight into how water is pumped from the soil to the atmosphere through vegetation, and how this pumping is regulated by the vegetation’s physiological response to environmental conditions.

The Advanced Scatterometer on the Metop series allows us to monitor radar backscatter as a function of incidence angle. For the first time, this information will be used to study global vegetation water dynamics to better understand the role of vegetation in the water, energy and carbon cycles.


  • Susan Steele-Dunne
    Delft University of Technology
  • Meiert Grootes
    Netherlands eScience Center
  • Yifat Dzigan
    Netherlands eScience Center
  • Sonja Georgievska
    Netherlands eScience Center
  • Francesco Nattino
    Netherlands eScience Center