SMAPing with Erika: Combining Soil Moisture Measurements with Other GLOBE Measurements

From Dr. Erika Podest, SMAP Scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

How do the measurements from different GLOBE protocols serve a mutual purpose better understanding our planet?

In previous blogs I’ve discussed the importance of soil moisture and how it plays a large role in weather prediction, flood and drought forecasting, plant growth, and even in pin pointing areas at risk for mosquito carrying diseases (such as malaria or yellow fever). Soil moisture also drives or is driven by other environmental variables such as air temperature, soil temperature, humidity, and precipitation.

Soil moisture affects air temperature especially when high soil moisture evaporates due to warm temperatures during the day. This evaporation will cause cooling and it is similar to a person sweating.  In very dry areas, like Arizona, there is little moisture in the soil and hence very high temperatures in the summer and low humidity. In wet areas like Alabama, soils are very wet, which is one of the reasons why humidity is high and temperature in the summer does not get to be as high as in very dry places.

Soil moisture affects soil temperature. If you have ever stepped outside a hot sunny day on wet soil and a dry soil next to it, you’ll know that the wet soil is cooler. If you haven’t already, try it at home.

Finally, soil moisture also plays a role in precipitation. When the water in the soil evaporates, that moist air rising has a higher chance of producing precipitation than dry air rising. Of course, precipitation also plays a role in soil moisture in obvious ways. Keeping track of soil moisture can help predict temperature and precipitation. I encourage you to collect precipitation, air temperature, soil temperature and humidity and look at how they are related and perhaps next time you can blog your findings.

Around Earth Day 2016, we will be unveiling a new multi-measurement campaign that will include GLOBE soil moisture, soil temperature, surface temperature, and precipitation measurements. 


More to follow in 2016!

More Blog Entries

PEACE Schools' GLOBE Team is ready to participate in the combined measurements. In fact we were about to suggest that the One Day Integrated ATM data can be amplified to include surface temperature of a field covered with short grass and soil temperature at 5 cm from the same field after getting the sample for Gravimetric Soil Moisture. Is there satellite data that these measurements will help validate?

Also, if you have the schedule handy, can you tell us when to expect SMAP satellite over Okinawa, Japan? We asked NASA on the SMAP website and we are waiting for a reply.