Scientists predict droughts and fires with the help of orbital satellites

Dry soil without plants could be the first harbinger of the impending drought, but to fully appreciate the risk of its occurrence, it is necessary to pay attention to the amount of groundwater. Fortunately, it is not necessary to dig a kilometer of the pit — just look at the indicators of special satellites. Thanks to them, scientists have for several years predict a terrible drought and the fires that people were ready for them in advance or even prevented them.

Спутники GRACE

Oddly enough, calculate the amount of groundwater is possible as the gravitational field of the Earth. Especially for his study in 2002, a project was launched GRACE into a polar orbit of the planet was displayed two satellites. They are completely identical and with a very high precision know how far apart they are. This property allows them to catch tiny fluctuations in the gravitational field, which in addition to factors such as the displacement of magma and movement of tectonic plates depends on the quantity of groundwater. The smaller the water volume, the less the gravitational attraction.

Unfortunately, the GRACE satellites are not able to perform soil moisture and salinity of the oceans. To do this, the researchers use the satellite SMOS launched by the European space Agency in the framework of the program “Living planet”. Using the data of the two projects and assessing the condition of the plants, they can identify drought and forest fires for five months before they occur. Scientists note that an important role in forecasting plays computer modeling: it simulates the cycles of plant growth and water distribution.

To predict the drought, we have always looked to the sky, but it did not give any results. This approach — looking into the depths of the earth from space — opens up more opportunities to prepare for drought. It increases the amount of time available to deal with such serious consequences of drought, forest fires and loss of livestock, explained Professor albert van Dijk Australian national University (ANU).

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