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Manuela Girotto

Data Assimilation of Terrestrial Water Storage, Snow, and Soil Moisture: Challenges and Opportunities


Accurate knowledge of spatial and temporal land surface storages such as snow, soil moisture and terrestrial water storage are essential for addressing a wide range of important, socially relevant science, application and management issues. While in situ observational networks are improving, the only practical way to observe the land surface on continental to global scales is via satellite remote sensing. Though remote sensing can make spatially comprehensive measurements of various components of the land surface system, it cannot provide information on the entire system (e.g. deep moisture stores), and the measurements represent only a snapshot in time. Land surface process models may be used to continuously predict the temporal and spatial land system variations, but these predictions are often poor, due to model initialization, parameter and forcing errors. An attractive prospect is to combine the strengths of models and observations (and minimize the weaknesses of both) to provide a superior land surface state estimate. This is the goal of data assimilation. Data assimilation provides a better estimate of the environmental states than either models or observations could individually do. This presentation will focus on benefits and challenges of recent land surface data assimilation research efforts targeted at improving snow, soil moisture, groundwater, and terrestrial water storage hydrological states.


             I am an Assistant Professor in the department of Environmental Science and Policy Management at UC Berkeley. My research merges cutting-edge space technology and remotely-sensed observations of the earth with state-of-the-art models for the purpose of improving our scientific knowledge about variability and change in hydrologic cycles. In particular, my research focuses on snow, soil moisture, and groundwater hydrology. After earning my PhD in civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles, I have worked as a research scientist in the earth science division of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD.