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Archive for the ‘Soil Moisture’ Category

ESA Says Australia Dry!

Posted by feww on February 24, 2010

Finally, the first calibrated images are being delivered by ESA’s SMOS mission. Most what they tell us we already know. AND, NO, they couldn’t program ESA SMOS to do a rain dance. But let’s at least hope that the images would help convince the world government to keep the hydrocarbons buried inside the earth, where they belong. Fire-Earth

Public Release: European Space Agency

First images from ESA’s water mission

In less than four months since launch, the first calibrated images are being delivered by ESA’s SMOS mission. These images of ‘brightness temperature’ translate into clear information on global variations of soil moisture and ocean salinity to advance our understanding of the water cycle.

Launched on 2 November, the Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) mission is improving our understanding of Earth’s water cycle by making global observations of soil moisture over land and salinity over oceans. By consistently mapping these two variables, SMOS will not only advance our understanding of the exchange processes between Earth’s surface and atmosphere, but will also help to improve weather and climate models.

In addition, the data from SMOS will have several other applications in areas such as agriculture and water resource management.

SMOS captures images of ‘brightness temperature’, which then require substantial processing to realise information on soil moisture and ocean salinity. Brightness temperature is a measure of the radiation emitted from Earth’s surface. During the commissioning phase, considerable effort is put into improving the quality of these images of brightness temperature before using them as input for the soil moisture and ocean salinity data products. ESA is now in a position to show the first results, which are very encouraging.


This is a calibrated image of brightness temperature over Australia. Compared to the uncalibrated image, the “noise” in the product has been reduced so that the coast lines and physical features of the landscape are much sharper. Credit: ESA

Since it was launched, engineers and scientists from various institutes in Europe have been busy commissioning the SMOS satellite and instrument. This commissioning phase, which will continue until the end of April, initially involved testing the Proteus platform – a generic ‘satellite bus’ developed by the French space agency CNES and Thales Alenia Space – and the all-important MIRAS instrument developed by EADS-CASA in Spain under contract to ESA. Both platform and instrument have shown excellent performance during their first four months in orbit.

Achim Hahne, ESA’s SMOS Project Manager, said, “Our development team is extremely happy and proud to see the real performance of the SMOS system in orbit. We are only half-way through the in-orbit commissioning phase and it is rewarding to see these first very promising calibrated products delivered by SMOS.”

Among other tasks, commissioning also includes testing the system that sends the data to the ground and the process through which the data is distributed, as well as calibrating the data products delivered by MIRAS – the Microwave Imaging Radiometer with Aperture Synthesis instrument.

MIRAS produces a snapshot of brightness temperature every 1.2 seconds. The image of Scandinavia shows one snapshot acquired by SMOS. From these images of brightness temperature, it is possible to derive how much moisture there is in the surface layers of soil and how much salt there is in the surface waters of the oceans. High brightness temperatures translate into dry soils and low brightness temperatures into wet areas. This is why bodies of water show up as cold spots.

Calibration and validation are a major undertaking in any Earth observation mission. Once the data get to the ground, they need to be checked that they make sense and can be used for scientific research. The last three months have been dedicated to performing these calibration activities in order to assess the performance of the mission.

This first calibration step is important to ensure the instrument meets the required performance. The process also includes making corrections for errors caused by, for example, temperature variations in the instrument’s antenna receivers or light reflected from the Sun and Moon. The effect is instantly visible in the calibrated image of Australia, where geophysical features, such as lakes, are clearly visible, compared to the uncalibrated image.

The image showing Brazil highlights the rainforest, which is relatively stable and bright, and the Amazon River is seen in lower brightness temperatures.

Susanne Mecklenburg, who, as ESA’s SMOS Mission Manager, will formally take over the reins of the mission at the end of commissioning said, “It is exciting to see these first data products, which are already of excellent quality, even though we haven’t completed all the calibration activities yet. We also had very positive feedback from the scientists who have already started using the data.”

Yann Kerr, who first proposed the mission to ESA, added, “SMOS has delivered its first products earlier than expected and of a quality better than the specifications.”

The acquisition of these calibrated images marks a very important step in the progress of the SMOS mission and also demonstrates the excellent quality and availability of the data, which will soon be available to the science community.

Jordi Font, the mission’s Lead Investigator for ocean salinity, said, “For the ocean products, a lot of work still has to be done before the release of operational data. The low sensitivity to variations in salinity requires very accurate instrument calibration and data processing to achieve the mission’s measurement goals for ocean salinity. However, the excellent performance of MIRAS, and the work being done in commissioning means we are very close to obtaining good results for measuring salinity.”

The commissioning phase will continue to the end of April, after which the mission will be operational. However, the science team will continue to asses the quality of the data products throughout the lifetime of the mission. An airborne validation campaign is under way in Australia, comparing in situ measurements with those taken by the satellite. In addition, extensive airborne campaigns will be carried out in Germany, Spain and France in the spring.

Contact: Robert Meisner
robert.meisner@esa.int
European Space Agency

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US Drought Forecast

Posted by feww on March 10, 2009

US Seasonal Drought Outlook

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Latest Seasonal Assessment [quoted from Climate Prediction Center, NWS/NOAA.] Heavy rain and snow from mid-February to early March raised river levels, boosted snow pack, and increased reservoir storage in drought-affected areas of California, but major reservoirs remained below normal. The seasonal drought outlook indicates continued improving conditions for northern and central parts of the state, but with the pace of improvement slowing due to forecasts of less rain and snow in coming weeks. Statewide reservoir storage increased from 58 percent of normal on February 17 to 71 percent of normal on March 3. Despite the improvement in water supplies, it is unlikely that shortages will be erased before the dry season sets in. With less precipitation in the forecast, little change in the drought situation is expected for those areas of southern California where drought exists, as well as in northwestern Nevada. Some improvement is forecast for other areas in the Great Basin. Elsewhere, drought has further worsened in the southern Plains, and short and long-range forecasts of below-normal precipitation and above-normal temperatures mean that drought could expand in Kansas, eastern Colorado, western Texas, and southern New Mexico. In contrast, heavy showers forecast during the first 2 weeks of the forecast period in March are likely to bring at least short-term relief to eastern drought areas of Texas and the northern Gulf Coast, with even some improvement possible in the hard-hit areas of south-central Texas. The drought has aggravated wildfire danger and damaged winter crops across the southwestern Plains. In early March, 63 percent of the Texas winter wheat crop rated poor to very poor. To the east, heavy rain and snow over the South at the end of February benefited remaining drought areas. More relief is anticipated from central Georgia northward, while drought should persist over southern Georgia and the Florida Peninsula. Development is forecast in northern Florida while lingering drought in parts of Hawaii should ease.  Forecaster: D. Le Comte

Soil Moisture Anomaly

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Top soil moisture

Vegetation Health

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Soil Moisture

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Posted in crop Health, drought and deluge, Mountain Snowpack, snow, Soil Moisture | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »