The Global Soil Moisture Data Bank

Alan Robock, Konstantin Y. Vinnikov, Govindarajalu Srinivasan, Jared K. Entin, Steven E. Hollinger, Nina A. Speranskaya, Suxia Liu, A. Namkhai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

581 Scopus citations


Soil moisture is an important variable in the climate system. Understanding and predicting variations of surface temperature, drought, and flood depend critically on knowledge of soil moisture variations, as do impacts of climate change and weather forecasting. An observational dataset of actual in situ measurements is crucial for climatological analysis, for model development and evaluation, and as ground truth for remote sensing. To that end, the Global Soil Moisture Data Bank, a Web site ( dedicated to collection, dissemination, and analysis of soil moisture data from around the globe, is described. The data bank currently has soil moisture observations for over 600 stations from a large variety of global climates, including the former Soviet Union, China, Mongolia, India, and the United States. Most of the data are in situ gravimetric observations of soil moisture; all extend for at least 6 years and most for more than 15 years. Most of the stations have grass vegetation, and some are agricultural. The observations have been used to examine the temporal and spatial scales of soil moisture variations, to evaluate Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project, Project for Intercomparison of Land-Surface Parameterization Schemes, and Global Soil Wetness Project simulations of soil moisture, for remote sensing of soil moisture, for designing new soil moisture observational networks, and to examine soil moisture trends. For the top 1-m soil layers, the temporal scale of soil moisture variation at all midlatitude sites is 1.5 to 2 months and the spatial scale is about 500 km. Land surface models, in general, do not capture the observed soil moisture variations when forced with either model-generated or observed meteorology. In contrast to predictions of summer desiccation with increasing temperatures, for the stations with the longest records summer soil moisture in the top 1 m has increased while temperatures have risen. The increasing trend in precipitation more than compensated for the enhanced evaporation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1281-1299
Number of pages19
JournalBulletin of the American Meteorological Society
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science

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    Robock, A., Vinnikov, K. Y., Srinivasan, G., Entin, J. K., Hollinger, S. E., Speranskaya, N. A., Liu, S., & Namkhai, A. (2000). The Global Soil Moisture Data Bank. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 81(6), 1281-1299.<1281:TGSMDB>2.3.CO;2