THE CEOS DATABASE : Missions, Instruments and Measurements
DomainTerrestrialDescriptionSoil moisture is an important variable in land-atmosphere feedbacks at both weather and climate time scales. It plays a major role in determining how the energy flux into the land from incoming radiation is partitioned into fluxes of latent and sensible heat from the land to the atmosphere, and in the allocation of precipitation into runoff, sub-surface flow and infiltration. Soil moisture is intimately involved in the feedback between climate and vegetation, since both local climate and vegetation influence soil moisture through evapotranspiration, while soil moisture is a determinant of the type and condition of vegetation in a region. Changes in soil moisture can accordingly have substantial impact on agricultural productivity, forestry, and ecosystem health. [GCOS-195 6.3.16]
Full NameSoil moisture
Satellite Signficant ContributionYes
GCOS Actions
DescriptionWhoTime FramePerformance IndicatorCost Implications
Develop a record of validated globally-gridded near-surface soil moisture from satellites.Parties’ national services and research programmes, through GEWEX and TOPC in collaboration with2014Availability of globally validated soil moisture products from the early satellites until now.1-10M US$ (10% in non-Annex-I Parties).
Develop Global Terrestrial Network for Soil Moisture (GTN-SM).Parties’ national services and research programmes, through IGWCO, GEWEX and TOPC in collaboration with space agencies.2014Fully functional GTN-SM with a set of in situ observations (possibly collocated with1-10M US$ (40% in non-Annex-I Parties).
*GCOS-195 Status Categories: Category A: Action completed, perhaps exceeding reasonable expectations. Very good progress on ongoing tasks. Category B: Action largely completed according to expectation. Good progress on ongoing tasks. Category C: Moderate progress overall, although progress may be good for some part of the action. Category D: Limited progress overall, although progress may be moderate or good for some part of the action. Category E: Very little or no progress, or deterioration rather than progress.
GCOS Products
Related Measurements/
from CEOS DB
T.11Global near-surface soil moisture maps (up to 5cm soil depth)Volumetric soil moisture
Soil moisture at the surface
Soil moisture in the roots region
Surface inundation
CEOS Response[T13 (T.11)]

2015 Update:
  • The successful completion of the ESA project WACMOS in 2012 provided the functional design of the CCI SM production system.
  • Building upon the work undertaken in WACMOS, in collaboration with ESA’s CCI SM project, June 2012 saw the release of the first 30+ year, global, soil moisture project derived from active and passive EO data sets.
  • The third data set (product) release of CCI SM v02.1 was made in Sept 2014 providing 35 years of data from 1978 onwards, and is freely available, after registration, via http://www.esa-
  • As provided in the recently authored Product Validation and Intercomparison Report (Nov 2014), available from CCI SM web site (Jan 2015), the CCI SM data set has been successfully, independently, validated and compared against in situ, modelled and other satellite datasets.
  • A review of the CCI phase 1 SM product in January 2014, using the modified bates maturity index of the CORE-CLIMAX project, resulted in an overall score of 3 (Initial Operations Capacity).
  • Since the first product release in 2012 more than 1200 users have registered to date to obtain the product. The product enjoys a global uptake with the majority of users coming from the USA, China and India, and a strong following across the EU, and Australasia. The users focus largely on Climate, Water and Ecosystem issues, although Disaster and Agriculture are also key topics
  • Following the successful completion of CCI SM phase 1 in Dec 2014, phase 2 (CCI SM 2) started on 1.1. 2015, running to 31.12.2017 and, in close collaboration with user groups, sees the graceful evolution of the implementation of the production system towards an operational system.
  • CEOS WGCV, through the Focus Area on Soil Moisture within the Land Product Validation Subgroup, has taken on a coordination role for the validation and inter-comparison of satellite- derived soil moisture products.

[T14 (T.11)]

2015 Update:
  • ISMN was set up in 2009 and has been running successfully since then
  • Currently, almost 50 networks participate, providing more than 7000 soil moisture data sets from almost 2000 sites worldwide
  • The ISMN has been migrated to
  • Data archiving and quality control procedures are mature and fully automated
  • The ISMN has been integrated in the Global Terrestrial Network – Hydrology (GTN-H) of the Group on Earth Observations/Integrated Global Water Cycle Observations (GEO/IGWCO) theme in June 2013
  • Funding for operations have been provided by ESA and may e xtend into 2018. After this date the funding situation is unclear. To keep ISMN operational in a basic form, a minimum of 100 kEUR/year is needed.
  • Surveys sent out to data providers and users reveal that both parties are very satisfied and see an urgent need to continue the ISMN.
  • Standard measurement protocol still needs to be developed and agreed upon.

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