Soil moisture is a key variable for environmental and agricultural models. Later this month a new satellite mission will be launched that will allow researchers, businesses and organisations understand changes in global soil moisture in more detail. Here at Geoger Ltd. we have our fingers crossed for a successful launch and deployment of the system.
Below are a few notes about the new system, and a couple of existing systems. If you are interested in exploring this further then please contact Alastair at Geoger Ltd.
On the 29 January 2015 NASA will launch the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite mission. This mission represents a step-change in the way that soil moisture data are collected. By joint processing of radar (active) and radiometer (passive) data a soil moisture product will be calculated at a spatial resolution of 10 km every three days.
Aquarius is a NASA instrument mounted abouard an Argentine satellite (that was launched in 2011). The sensor was designed to collect data to monitor sea surface salinity so mapping soil moisture was not its primary mission. However, a USDA-led, NASA-funded team of researchers has developed algorithms to extract soil moisture values from data collected by the microwave radiometer instrument. The following video shows surface soil moisture changes between 2011 and 2013.
The European Space Agency’s soil moisture mission, Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS), was launched in 2009. This was a critical system as there were few global datasets on soil moisture available at the time. SMOS provides a global image of surface soil moisture at a spatial resolution of ~40 km every three days.
The map below demonstrates the type of map that can be generated from SMOS data and links through to an animation of global soil moisture changes.