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 The lower mantle can be oxidized in the presence of water
25.05.2020 | Science China Press

nachricht New technique separates industrial noise from natural seismic signals
20.05.2020 | DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: I-call - When microimplants communicate with each other / Innovation driver digitization - "Smart Health“

Microelectronics as a key technology enables numerous innovations in the field of intelligent medical technology. The Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT coordinates the BMBF cooperative project "I-call" realizing the first electronic system for ultrasound-based, safe and interference-resistant data transmission between implants in the human body.

When microelectronic systems are used for medical applications, they have to meet high requirements in terms of biocompatibility, reliability, energy...

Im Focus: When predictions of theoretical chemists become reality

Thomas Heine, Professor of Theoretical Chemistry at TU Dresden, together with his team, first predicted a topological 2D polymer in 2019. Only one year later, an international team led by Italian researchers was able to synthesize these materials and experimentally prove their topological properties. For the renowned journal Nature Materials, this was the occasion to invite Thomas Heine to a News and Views article, which was published this week. Under the title "Making 2D Topological Polymers a reality" Prof. Heine describes how his theory became a reality.

Ultrathin materials are extremely interesting as building blocks for next generation nano electronic devices, as it is much easier to make circuits and other...

Im Focus: Rolling into the deep

Scientists took a leukocyte as the blueprint and developed a microrobot that has the size, shape and moving capabilities of a white blood cell. Simulating a blood vessel in a laboratory setting, they succeeded in magnetically navigating the ball-shaped microroller through this dynamic and dense environment. The drug-delivery vehicle withstood the simulated blood flow, pushing the developments in targeted drug delivery a step further: inside the body, there is no better access route to all tissues and organs than the circulatory system. A robot that could actually travel through this finely woven web would revolutionize the minimally-invasive treatment of illnesses.

A team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (MPI-IS) in Stuttgart invented a tiny microrobot that resembles a white blood cell...

Im Focus: NASA's Curiosity rover finds clues to chilly ancient Mars buried in rocks

By studying the chemical elements on Mars today -- including carbon and oxygen -- scientists can work backwards to piece together the history of a planet that once had the conditions necessary to support life.

Weaving this story, element by element, from roughly 140 million miles (225 million kilometers) away is a painstaking process. But scientists aren't the type...

Im Focus: Making quantum 'waves' in ultrathin materials

Study co-led by Berkeley Lab reveals how wavelike plasmons could power up a new class of sensing and photochemical technologies at the nanoscale

Wavelike, collective oscillations of electrons known as "plasmons" are very important for determining the optical and electronic properties of metals.

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Dresden Nexus Conference 2020: Same Time, Virtual Format, Registration Opened

19.05.2020 | Event News

Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium AWK'21 will take place on June 10 and 11, 2021

07.04.2020 | Event News

International Coral Reef Symposium in Bremen Postponed by a Year

06.04.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

Inexpensive retinal diagnostics via smartphone

25.05.2020 | Medical Engineering

Smart machine maintenance: New AI system also detects unknown faults

25.05.2020 | Information Technology

Artificial Intelligence for optimized mobile communication

25.05.2020 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>