Space technology predicts droughts several months in advance

phys.org | 1/28/2019 | Staff
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Scientists from The Australian National University (ANU) have used new space technology to predict droughts and increased bushfire risk up to five months in advance.

ANU researcher Siyuan Tian said the team knew they needed to move into space to get closer to understanding the complex nature of drought.

Data - Satellites - Water - Earth - Surface

They used data from multiple satellites to measure water below the Earth's surface with unprecedented precision, and were able to relate this to drought impacts on the vegetation several months later.

"The way these satellites measure the presence of water on Earth is mind boggling," said Ms Tian from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences.

Variations - Water - Availability - Growth - Condition

"We've been able to use them to detect variations in water availability that affect the growth and condition of grazing land, dryland crops and forests, and that can lead to increased fire risk and farming problems several months down the track."

Co-researcher Professor Albert van Dijk said combining these data with a computer model simulating the water cycle and plant growth enabled the team to build a detailed picture of the water's distribution below the surface and likely impacts on the vegetation months later.

Sky - Droughts—but - Success - Professor - Van

"We have always looked up at the sky to predict droughts—but not with too much success," said Professor van Dijk from the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society.

"This new approach—by looking down from...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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