Soil moisture results measured from space validated

CornSeedling_blogObjects in space can tell us a lot about Earth – gravitational pull, meteorite fragments in craters and now soil moisture.

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have validated soil moisture results collected by satellites  launched by the European Space Agency’s Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) mission. The first satellite, launched in 2009, can estimate Earth soil moisture within 4 percent, according to ARS. The SMOS satellites use a new sensor that utilizes the first passive L-band system.

However, like any new method, the results had to be verified. ARS had previously established soil moisture monitoring points in four large U.S. watersheds in 2002, and already had a wealth of data to compare SMOS results against. The data already was being used to look at soil moisture data from other satellites.

After comparing the SMOS results against ARS data and information from another satellite, researchers found SMOS soil moisture estimates were about 95 percent accurate. The ARS team also noted factors that could reduce accuracy, including when the satellite takes measurements.

The research was published last year but was featured in this month’s issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

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