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New satellite to offer drought monitoring data

US: NASA's Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite, scheduled for a launch in winter, will gather useful local data needed by agricultural and water managers globally. These include regional observations of soil moisture conditions so vital for monitoring droughts in addition to other range of applications related to agriculture.

Underground water resources are not easy to estimate, so farmers relying on groundwater have lesser indicators of approaching shortfalls than those whose irrigation comes partially from rain or snowmelt. For such parts of the world where farmers have little data available to help them understand current conditions, SMAP's measurements could fill a considerable void.

SMAP's design consists of L-band radiometer and radar instruments sharing a rotating 6-m mesh reflector antenna to provide high-accuracy and high-resolution global maps of soil moisture and freeze/thaw state every 2-3 days. The combined active/passive microwave soil moisture product will have a spatial resolution of 10 km and a mean latency of 24 hours. Further, the SMAP surface observations will be combined with advanced modelling and data assimilation to generate deeper root zone soil moisture and net ecosystem exchange of carbon.

Narendra Das, water and carbon cycle scientist on SMAP's science team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California said, "SMAP can assist in predicting how dramatic drought will be, and then its data can help farmers plan their recovery from drought."

Source: NASA