Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »
Drought mapping using measurements obtained from weather and research satellites
February 13th, 2012 by Susan Smith
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Center for Climate Prediction holds a monthly drought briefing by teleconference to identify the latest drought areas in North America, according to Don Comis of the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS). ARS scientists, Martha Anderson and Bill Kustas, are hoping that in a year or so, data from their computer model/satellite package will give evapotranspiration (ET) maps a seat at that briefing.
With funding from NOAA and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), they have developed a modelling system that NOAA will use to generate ET estimates over the continental United States. NOAA will evaluate these ET products to see how well they work for operational hydrologic and meteorological modeling. One application of the remotely sensed ET maps will be to monitor drought over the United States from a satellite’s perspective.
Anderson and Kustas, along with NOAA colleagues Chris Hain and Xiwu Zhan, are also mapping ET over the entire globe at a coarser spatial resolution, working towards a day when the maps can be used worldwide for drought monitoring. The team wants to expand its drought monitoring to Mexico, Canada, and Central and South America. They are mapping parts of Africa – including the Horn of Africa region, where drought has caused famine in Somalia – with data from European Union meteorological satellites.
ET consists of the water evaporated from soil and plant surfaces and the water vapor that escapes, or transpires, through plant leaf pores (stomata) as the plants absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) through photosynthesis.
Anderson and Kustas and colleagues have simplified the estimation of ET by using measurements of land-surface temperature obtained from weather and research satellites. With this data, they can infer soil moisture without needing data on precipitation, soil characteristics or anything else below the Earth’s surface.
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