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.
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