NASA launched its Soil Moisture Activity Probe (SMAP), a satellite that cost $916 million, on Jan. 29. The purpose of the satellite is to generate a global map of soil moisture every two to three days at 10 kilometers resolution, which scientists are claiming will help improve weather forecasts, flood forecasts, and drought monitoring.
The goal of the mission is what scientists “have been chasing from the earliest days of optical remote sensing,” reported Eric Hand for ScienceMag.org. in quoting Dara Entekhabi, the science team leader for the mission.
In the article announcing the satellite launch and mission, Hand explained that soil moisture is extremely important in the earth’s water, carbon and energy cycles and ultimately is a key driver for storms.
There are a lot of questions that scientists seem to have. One mentioned is how does soil moisture affect the mechanics of rain storms?
Hand wrote about one idea. “Storms require a combination of moisture in the atmosphere and convection to drive the storm clouds aloft. Evaporation from moist soils can lead to a phenomenon called recycled precipitation, but there is also a negative feedback, because evaporation cools Earth and inhibits the heat that drives convection. Storms may require alternating patches of wet and dry soil—one to increase atmospheric moisture, the other to increase convective energy.”
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