In a Field: SMAP Gathers Soil Data in Australia

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It’s 3 a.m. in Yanco, Australia, a remote segment located 380 miles (612 kilometers) west of Sydney. While many people are still in bed, a tiny group of scientists prepares for takeoff in an aircraft that will accumulate information about a dirt below. The early-risers are questioning a volume of dampness in a tip 2 inches (5 centimeters) of a dirt — a dimensions identical to those done by NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) look-out orbiting 426 miles (685 kilometers) above in space.

Team member Seokhyeon Kim uses her dirt dampness examine to magnitude a volume of dirt dampness in a ground. Credits: Amy McNally

Team member Seokhyeon Kim uses her dirt dampness examine to magnitude a volume of dirt dampness in a ground. Credits: Amy McNally

Four hours after during daybreak, 3 some-more teams of scientists will conduct out on feet with specialized collection to magnitude dirt moisture, foliage coverage and aspect roughness.

In total, around 40 scientists are investigate a Australian dirt as partial of a Soil Moisture Active Passive Experiments-4 (SMAPEx-4) margin debate from a belligerent and atmosphere — a initial critical dirt dampness margin debate conducted given SMAP launched Jan. 31, 2015. The three-week study, conducted from May 2 to May 22, is designed to countenance dirt dampness measurements from SMAP.

SMAP provides tellurian dirt dampness measurements each dual to 3 days. The tellurian maps will urge continue prediction, raise inundate forecasting and surprise rural practices, including during droughts.

“Our scientists are holding a time to countenance a SMAP products,” pronounced Peggy O’Neill, SMAP emissary plan scientist during NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This margin debate will assistance yield explanation that a tough work is profitable off.”

This margin debate is a fourth in a array of 5 SMAPEx campaigns in a region. Jeff Walker, a SMAPEx-4 plan lead and highbrow during Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, says a prior campaigns were for algorithm growth regulating aircraft instruments that unnatural SMAP readings, though this debate is for validation of tangible SMAP algorithms and products.

After a day measuring dirt moisture, group members collect dirt cores from a field. Credits: Amy McNally

After a day measuring dirt moisture, group members collect dirt cores from a field. Credits: Amy McNally

“The aircraft debate is a best approach to directly exam a algorithm for SMAP’s core dirt dampness product during a spatial fortitude of 9 kilometers,” pronounced Simon Yueh, SMAP’s plan scientist during a Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “The campaign’s 3 week generation will concede a observations of some flood and dry down cycles to countenance a SMAP products over a accumulation of conditions.”

The SMAP satellite is estimated to pass over a Yanco segment during approximately 6 a.m. internal time and yield 3 high-resolution readings per week that a SMAPEx scientists can use. SMAP carries an active radar and pacifist radiometer. The active x-ray radar sends a vigilance to a belligerent and measures a reflected radar beat sent behind to SMAP—a dimensions called backscatter. SMAP’s pacifist radiometer measures liughtness temperatures, a dimensions of heat formed on how many x-ray deviation is naturally entrance from a ground. These SMAP measurements are converted to dirt dampness observations.

The aircraft, also carrying a radar and radiometer, provides x-ray backscatter and liughtness heat observations during high fortitude to assistance determine SMAP’s products. The aircraft flies for about 6 hours during a SMAP overpass and mimics SMAP’s readings in terms of wavelength, observation angle and fortitude ratio.

On foot, scientists are measuring dirt dampness directly. They use probes that hang into a belligerent and magnitude a volume of H2O in a tip inches of a soil. These information are used to weigh a distributed dirt dampness measurements from aircraft and SMAP. The Yanco segment has different climate, soil, foliage and land cover, that allows for some-more severe contrast of a SMAP algorithm over a accumulation of aspect forms and conditions.

The margin teams also magnitude a land’s foliage coverage and aspect roughness. Vegetation is critical to cause in, as it influences a radar and radiometer signals celebrated by SMAP. For instance, denser foliage tends to retard signals from a dirt aspect and can seem as a comfortable to a SMAP radiometer. This would tend to furnish reduce (or drier) retrieved dirt dampness measurements if a participation of foliage was not taken into account.

The margin debate is a vast bid involving several parties. The SMAPEx-4 group includes scientists from Australia, The Netherlands, Germany, France and a United States, including from NASA and a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The debate receives critical support from Yanco Agriculture Institute in Yanco, Australia in providing facilities, storage, complicated ovens and scales— equipment that would be formidable and dear to import. Walker, a member of a SMAP Science Definition Team, and his colleagues have been formulation these campaigns for years with a initial one starting in 2010. The final SMAPEx debate in a array is scheduled in a Yanco segment in Sep 2015.

“Field experiments are one of a many perfectionist in terms of tellurian and mercantile resources. Therefore, they contingency be good designed and focused on specific objectives,” pronounced Tom Jackson, SMAP Science Team calibration/validation lead and investigate hydrologist during a USDA.

Source: NASA