Abstract. Accurate information on surface soil moisture (SSM) content at a global scale under different climatic conditions is important for hydrological and climatological applications. Machine learning (ML) based systematic integration of in-situ hydrological measurements, complex environmental and climate data and satellite observation facilitate to generate the best data products to monitor and analyse the exchanges of water, energy and carbon in the Earth system at a proper space-time resolution. This study investigates the estimation of daily SSM using eight optimised ML algorithms and ten ensemble models (constructed via model bootstrap aggregating techniques and five-fold cross-validation). The algorithmic implementations were trained and tested using the international soil moisture network (ISMN) data collected from 1722 stations distributed across the World. The result showed that K-neighbours Regressor (KNR) performs best on “test_random” set, while Random Forest Regressor (RFR) performs best on “test_temporal” and “test_independent-stations”. Independent evaluation on novel stations across different climate zones was conducted. For the optimised ML algorithms, the median RMSEs were below 0.1 cm3/cm3. GradientBoosting (GB), Multi-layer Perceptron Regressor (MLPR), Stochastic Gradient Descent Regressor (SGDR), and Random Forest Regressor (RFR) achieved a median r score of 0.6 in twelve, eleven, nine and nine climate zones, respectively, out of fifteen climate zones. The performance of ensemble models improved significantly with the median value of RMSE below 0.075 cm3/cm3 for all climate zones . All voting regressors achieved the r scores of above 0.6 in thirteen climate zones except BSh and BWh because of the sparse distribution of training stations. The metrical evaluation showed that ensemble models can improve the performance of single ML algorithms and achieve more stable results. Based on the results computed for three different test sets, the ensemble model with KNR, RFR and XB performed the best. Overall, our investigation shows that ensemble machine learning algorithms have a greater capability for predicting SSM compared to the optimised, or base ML algorithms, and indicates their huge potential applicability in estimating water cycle budgets, managing irrigation and predicting crop yields.
How to cite. Han, Q., Zeng, Y., Zhang, L., Cira, C.-I., Prikaziuk, E., Duan, T., Wang, C., Szabó, B., Manfreda, S., Zhuang, R., and Su, B.: Ensemble of optimised machine learning algorithms for predicting surface soil moisture content at global scale, Geosci. Model Dev. Discuss. [preprint], https://doi.org/10.5194/gmd-2023-83, in review, 2023.