Sunday, August 23, 2009

The moisture

The moisture in the soil of this northern Tennessee farm is connected to the water in the river and the water vapour in the air through the hydrologic cycle. Because of this connection, soil moisture not only affects crops directly, but also indirectly by its impact on weather. Data from NASA's Aqua satellite will keep farmers informed about both the direct and indirect effects of soil moisture.


Farmers will be able to use the data and the potentially improved long-range weather forecasts to help plan growing seasons, schedule crop irrigation, prevent excessive fertiliser use, and predict plant strength and resistance. Data and forecasts will also be useful to water resource managers and they will help agriculture officials estimate crop productivity.

The Water of Life

Back in the old days, when farmers wanted to find water in the ground, they hired a fellow called a "dowser" who held a forked stick and went "water-witching." When the forked stick "dowsed," or dipped toward the earth; supposedly under the influence of hidden water- that's where water would be found. Or so they said. But now NASA has a better way to find moisture in the Earth.
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Using data from NASA's Aqua satellite - due to launch in December 2001 - scientists hope to be able to map the moisture content of soils over most of the Earth's surface. This information will also improve forecasts of potential rainfall and other meteorological factors such as winds, temperature and humidity. Better knowledge of water and weather should be a boon to agriculture.
"What this improved information on current soil moisture means for farmers is that we can improve long range weather forecasting and consequently improve forecasts of crop yields," explains Bill Crosson, a scientist with the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) working through NASA's Global Hydrology and Climate Centre (GHCC). "The key is a combined system through which we obtain global data on soil moisture and integrate it into weather prediction models."
Such data will produce a bumper crop of real-world applications for agriculture and meteorology.