Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

’Getting the dirt’: from space, sky and ground, scientists and students dig high and low for soil moisture data

10.07.2003


A water-sensing satellite orbits more than 400 miles above Earth. An instrument-packed airplane circles 25,000 feet above three U.S. states and Brazil. Scientists, college students and other volunteers troop into the countryside, armed with sensors and notepads. It’s all about "getting the dirt." In this case, collecting detailed information about the soil.


Scientists and students take soil moisture measurements. (NASA/MSFC)



The objectives are two-fold — validating soil moisture data gleaned from satellites and working to find the optimum instrument for conducting soil moisture remote sensing. By learning how to better gauge the amount of moisture in the soil, scientists are pursuing the long-range goal of eventually helping to improve the accuracy of weather forecasts and better estimate crop yields through remote-sensing methods.

Led by Dr. Thomas Jackson of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Soil Moisture Experiments in 2003, or SMEX03, is a collaboration between NASA, the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, several academic institutions across the United States, and the Center for Hydrology, Soil Climatology, and Remote Sensing (HSCaRS) of Alabama A&M University in Huntsville — a NASA-sponsored Minority University Research Center that promotes minority and women student involvement in Earth science research.


There are three phases to the project’s field operations, which began June 22 in Huntsville. The project gathered data from Alabama and Georgia through July 2, moved to Oklahoma to collect data until July 19, and will finish in Brazil Sept. 16-26.

"By gathering comprehensive soil moisture data from space, air and land, we hope to better understand how these measurements correlate and how this information can help farmers, weather forecasters and others who depend on Mother Nature for their livelihood, said Dr. Charles Laymon, a hydrologist and remote sensing scientist with Universities Space Research Association at the Global Hydrology and Climate Center (GHCC) in Huntsville.

An improved understanding of moisture in the soil, for example, could ultimately aid irrigation efforts — a costly proposition for most farmers. Armed with better soil moisture information, farmers could save crops by irrigating when and precisely where necessary, or save money by refraining from irrigation when it’s not needed. This is important, Laymon said, because simple ground-based observations don’t always tell the whole story. That’s why scientists leading the Soil Moisture Experiments in 2003 will look skyward for much of their data.

Aqua, a NASA satellite launched in May 2002, will fill in part of the puzzle. Orbiting about 430 miles above Earth, its sensors collect information about Earth’s water cycle — including water vapor in the atmosphere, clouds, precipitation, and snow and ice cover. The Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for Earth Observing Systems, or AMSR-E — along with AMSR, a Japanese National Space Development Agency instrument, are the Aqua instruments scientists hope can provide information about soil moisture.

A challenge, Laymon said, will be taking the "big picture" offered by AMSR-E and filling in the gaps. "AMSR-E was designed primarily to monitor oceans and polar ice," he said. "So the sensor provides a very broad view of terrestrial soil moisture. To get a more detailed look at soil moisture, GHCC scientists will use mathematical algorithms to fine-tune AMSR-E’s results, and more importantly, correlate the satellite data to measurements gleaned by airborne instruments in the sky and by people on the ground."

The research aircraft are NASA’s P-3B, a four-engine turboprop, and DC-8, a four-engine jet. Equipped with a suite of remote sensing instruments developed for airborne observations in support of satellite validation, they will document patterns of surface moisture by measuring microwave energy in units of brightness temperature and power reflected off the surface.

On the ground, teams of scientists, college students and volunteers — rain or shine — will disperse into the countryside daily, taking measurements that include soil moisture and temperature, ground cover type and plant height.

"The students have an opportunity to get hands-on experience in field research as well as laboratory analysis of soil samples, said Dr. Tommy Coleman, director of HSCaRS at Alabama A&M. "It also gives them perspective on how to approach research tasks in an orderly fashion."

One student volunteer is Lakesha Fowler, a junior from Alabama A&M University. A civil engineering major who eventually wants to plan cities and communities, Fowler will spend two weeks sampling soil at several rural sites near the Alabama-Tennessee state line. "I hope to gain more knowledge about soil and its water content," she said. "This project will give me insight that’s difficult to gain in a classroom."

Participating NASA centers include NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The GHCC is one of seven research centers at the National Space Science and Technology Center in Huntsville, a partnership among the Marshall Center, Alabama research universities, industry and other federal agencies. Aircraft used for SMEX03 are based at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., and Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif.

Steve Roy | MSFC
Further information:
http://www1.msfc.nasa.gov/NEWSROOM/NSSTC/news/releases/2003/N03-005.html
http://hydrolab.arsusda.gov/smex03/
http://www.hscars.aamu.edu/

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht A new 3D viewer for improved digital geoscience mapping
20.09.2016 | Uni Research

nachricht The significance of seaweed
16.09.2016 | King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: OLED microdisplays in data glasses for improved human-machine interaction

The Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP has been developing various applications for OLED microdisplays based on organic semiconductors. By integrating the capabilities of an image sensor directly into the microdisplay, eye movements can be recorded by the smart glasses and utilized for guidance and control functions, as one example. The new design will be debuted at Augmented World Expo Europe (AWE) in Berlin at Booth B25, October 18th – 19th.

“Augmented-reality” and “wearables” have become terms we encounter almost daily. Both can make daily life a little simpler and provide valuable assistance for...

Im Focus: Artificial Intelligence Helps in the Discovery of New Materials

With the help of artificial intelligence, chemists from the University of Basel in Switzerland have computed the characteristics of about two million crystals made up of four chemical elements. The researchers were able to identify 90 previously unknown thermodynamically stable crystals that can be regarded as new materials. They report on their findings in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

Elpasolite is a glassy, transparent, shiny and soft mineral with a cubic crystal structure. First discovered in El Paso County (Colorado, USA), it can also be...

Im Focus: Complex hardmetal tools out of the 3D printer

For the first time, Fraunhofer IKTS shows additively manufactured hardmetal tools at WorldPM 2016 in Hamburg. Mechanical, chemical as well as a high heat resistance and extreme hardness are required from tools that are used in mechanical and automotive engineering or in plastics and building materials industry. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS in Dresden managed the production of complex hardmetal tools via 3D printing in a quality that are in no way inferior to conventionally produced high-performance tools.

Fraunhofer IKTS counts decades of proven expertise in the development of hardmetals. To date, reliable cutting, drilling, pressing and stamping tools made of...

Im Focus: Launch of New Industry Working Group for Process Control in Laser Material Processing

At AKL’16, the International Laser Technology Congress held in May this year, interest in the topic of process control was greater than expected. Appropriately, the event was also used to launch the Industry Working Group for Process Control in Laser Material Processing. The group provides a forum for representatives from industry and research to initiate pre-competitive projects and discuss issues such as standards, potential cost savings and feasibility.

In the age of industry 4.0, laser technology is firmly established within manufacturing. A wide variety of laser techniques – from USP ablation and additive...

Im Focus: New laser joining technologies at ‘K 2016’ trade fair

Every three years, the plastics industry gathers at K, the international trade fair for plastics and rubber in Düsseldorf. The Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will also be attending again and presenting many innovative technologies, such as for joining plastics and metals using ultrashort pulse lasers. From October 19 to 26, you can find the Fraunhofer ILT at the joint Fraunhofer booth SC01 in Hall 7.

K is the world’s largest trade fair for the plastics and rubber industry. As in previous years, the organizers are expecting 3,000 exhibitors and more than...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Experts from industry and academia discuss the future mobile telecommunications standard 5G

23.09.2016 | Event News

ICPE in Graz for the seventh time

20.09.2016 | Event News

Using mathematical models to understand our brain

16.09.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Chains of nanogold – forged with atomic precision

23.09.2016 | Life Sciences

New leukemia treatment offers hope

23.09.2016 | Health and Medicine

Self-assembled nanostructures hit their target

23.09.2016 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>