SMOS maps record soil water before flood

Jun 13, 2013
Soil moisture from SMOS.

As parts of central Europe are battling with the most extensive floods in centuries, forecasters are hoping that ESA's SMOS satellite will help to improve the accuracy of flood prediction in the future.

As its name suggests, the and (SMOS) mission monitors the amount of water held in the surface layers of the soil and the concentration of salt in the top layer of seawater.

This information is helping scientists understand more about how water is cycled between the oceans, atmosphere and land – Earth's water cycle. It is also helping to improve weather forecasts.

The massive flooding that central Europe is currently suffering was brought about by a wet spring and sudden heavy rains.

SMOS carries a novel to capture images of 'brightness temperature' to derive information on soil moisture.

Prior to the torrential rains, SMOS showed that soils in Germany were showing record levels of moisture – in fact, the highest ever observed.

The animation above shows the in blues and the dryer soils in yellows.

SMOS in orbit.

ESA's SMOS mission scientist, Matthias Drusch, explains, "Data from SMOS can be used to monitor the saturation of the soil.

"At the end of May we see that the soil was almost fully saturated, with record values for moisture. More rain meant that it immediately ran off as the surplus water could not soak into the soil, and this resulted in these terrible floods.

Flood mapping through the International Charter.

"Numerical Weather Predication centres are currently assessing the possibility of using data to improve weather and flood forecasts, so hopefully we will be better placed to predict these events more accurately in the future. "

Satellite missions such as Germany's TerraSAR-X and RapidEye are providing imagery to aid the relief effort through the International Charter Space and Major Disasters.

Explore further: Antarctic ice shelves rapidly thinning

More information: Climate Change Initiative: soil moisture

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

SMOS shines at symposium

Jun 30, 2010

Today, a focus at ESA's Living Planet Symposium is on the innovative SMOS mission, which recently became operational. Early results are proving very encouraging with its first observations due to be released in early July.

ESA's water mission keeps tabs on dry spring soils

May 13, 2011

Western Europe's exceptionally dry spring is clear to see in maps generated using data from SMOS. While these maps offer an interesting view of the stark difference in soil moisture compared to a year ago, ...

SMOS detects freezing soil as winter takes grip

Dec 15, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- ESA’s SMOS satellite is designed to observe soil moisture and ocean salinity, but this innovative mission is showing that it can also offer new insight into Earth’s carbon and methane ...

Recommended for you

Antarctic ice shelves rapidly thinning

2 hours ago

A new study led by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego researchers has revealed that the thickness of Antarctica's floating ice shelves has recently decreased by as much as 18 percent in certain ...

More big storms increase tropical rainfall totals

Mar 25, 2015

Increasing rainfall in certain parts of the tropics, colloquially described as the wet get wetter and warm get wetter, has long been a projection of climate change. Now observations have shown that an increase ...

Preparing Boston for the "big one"

Mar 25, 2015

In 1755, a major earthquake shook the Boston area, toppling chimneys and inspiring sermons and poems about the wrath of God, such as "Earthquakes the Works of God and Tokens of his Just Displeasure" and "The ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.