The European Space Agency (ESA) has launched a 315 million Euro ($465 Million) satellite that will monitor soil moisture, plant growth, and the salt content of sea water, all of which will be useful in tracking environmental changes as the planet warms.
The satellite, called SMOS — Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity — has the capacity to measure the water content of soil across the planet every three days to a depth of seven feet, enabling it not only to gauge surface water sources but also to monitor photosynthesis and plant growth. The data also will be valuable to scientists interested in forecasting drought and flood risk.
The SMOS satellite also will measure the salt content of ocean waters, crucial information in not only tracking an increase in freshwater in oceans from melting glaciers and ice sheets, but also valuable in understanding global ocean circulation patterns, which are partially driven by water temperature and salinity.
The satellite will collect the data using a variety of technologies, including microwave radiation.
Article appearing courtesy of Yale Environment 360
[photo: ESA - S. Corvaja, 2009]