Satellite Technology Feature Article
Satellite Program Helping to Predict Potential Droughts
By Oliver VanDervoort, Contributing Writer
Satellite technology has seen a big boom in the last few years. We all know that GPS is the most popular way to use the technology, but companies are coming up with new and interesting ways to use the technology. Weather reporting has been one way that companies have used satellite technology in ways that haven’t been all that reliable in the past. These advances are getting all the more accurate thanks to advances in the field, spurred on by commercial success.
The absolute newest satellite technology could do quite a bit more than tell people what kind of weather is rolling in. Data from satellites could actually tell us when we are entering a drought much earlier than we have known in the past. This technology would then allow people to make a more specific and effective response to the data.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is using a new program that works to measure how a plant interacts with the atmosphere surrounding it and how it gives off moisture. The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites takes this data and feeds it into a database, known as the Evaporative Stress Index. This index is built to gather data in a way that farmers can look at it and adjust their water use and take other measures in order to avoid the worst effects of a drought, before those affects are truly felt.
“It’s an indirect probe of what the soil moisture conditions are,” said Martha Anderson, research scientist at USDA Agriculture Research Service’s Hydrology and Remote Sensing Laboratory said in a recent statement. “We feel like there’s early warning potential.”
Brian Wardlow, an associate professor at the University of Nebraska, said that an early warning of drought is when plants are trying to conserve water on their own. By monitoring how much water is being used by plants, those plants can tell us when they feel they aren’t getting enough over a long period of time.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman