NASA to launch SMAP satellite to measure soil moisture

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The newest mission from NASA will soon provide detailed data as it closely monitors the on-going drought. The system is designed to scratch below the earth's surface.

NASA's latest launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base will measure the amount of water in our soil.

Farmers in the drought-stricken Central Valley will be among those who benefit from information provided by SMAP (Soil Moisture Active Passive).

"The applications from SMAPs are very broad for science and society -- including agricultural yield. So the amount of water that's available to the roots of plants is essential for estimating potential yield," said Dr. John Bolten, NASA scientist.

NASA images show a light snow pack and the effects on Central California as we head into a fourth year of drought. The van-sized satellite will measure the moisture in the top two inches of soil and offer a global perspective.

"The commodity pricing for crops in the US is driven by the health of plants in Central Asia or South American. So if we have a global estimate of the health of these plants by assessing the amount of water available to the roots, it would really improve our targeting of humanitarian assistance for global crops and yields," said Dr. Bolten.

The system will allow scientists to better predict both drought and flooding. From this NASA SMAP satellite we will have direct continuous observations of soil moisture for the first time ever. This is sort of a game changer for weather forecasting and climate forecasting.
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