NASA to use space images to help monitor California drought

SAN FRANCISCO Tue Feb 25, 2014 6:44pm EST

A tumbleweed is seen at an irrigation channel on a farm near Cantua Creek, California February 14, 2014. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

A tumbleweed is seen at an irrigation channel on a farm near Cantua Creek, California February 14, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Robert Galbraith

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - NASA scientists plan to use images shot from space and within the Earth's atmosphere to help California monitor one of the worst droughts in its recorded history, officials said on Tuesday.

Scientists said they would deploy imaging tools to measure snowpack and groundwater levels and use a host of other technologies to help better map and assess the water resources in a state that produces half the nation's fruits and vegetables.

"We're on the verge of being able to put all of these different kinds of instruments together, these measurements together, and start looking at the concept of perhaps closing the water budget of California," Tom Farr, a NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory geologist, told reporters at a news conference.

While much of the United States has experienced torrential rains and heavy snowfall this winter, California is in the midst of a drought threatening to inflict the biggest water crisis in its modern history.

Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency last month and has called on state officials to prepare for water shortages and develop solutions for potentially long-term dry weather.

The California Department of Water Resources has contracted with NASA to use data that will be collected next month with airplane mapping tools to measure water stored in the California snowpack, according to Jeanine Jones, the department's interstate water resources manager.

California could also soon utilize data from a satellite mapping system to gauge the extent of land subsidence, or sinking, because of dwindling groundwater levels, researchers said.

That data will help state officials plan for year-round water availability and locate and determine the size of aquifers, as well as detecting any damage caused by excessive groundwater pumping, researchers said.

State officials hope to ultimately use NASA satellite imagery to track the expanse of fallowed agricultural land in California's Central Valley to more accurately assess the impact of the drought on agricultural production.

Officials have said that California farmers facing drastic cutbacks in irrigation water are expected to idle half a million acres of cropland this year in a record production loss that could cause billions of dollars in economic damage.

Looking ahead, officials will also seek to use images shot from two NASA satellites - one designed to measure precipitation and another that tracks soil moisture levels - that are scheduled to launch into orbit this year.

(editing by Gunna Dickson)

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Comments (5)
morbas wrote:
This program does nothing. Having experienced the great corn blight as political solution was equivalent satellite mapping. The solution was with the industrial commitment of breeding resistance and using both hemispheres to build a new seed supply resistant to the blight. The solution is using technical challenge addressing the problem and accepting the challenge of executing the cure.
Congress must open up infrastructure projects to enable USA economics. Reduce/eliminate shipping low grade oil pollution using North/Central/South America Rail infrastructure to include a Trans-Bearing Strait route. Re-Engineer rail gauge for reliability and speed. Make Truck/rail/freeway portals at interstate intersections, thus reducing fuel consumption and promoting local electric transport. Build national level canals for water distribution relieving drought by using excessive fresh water run of. We might then improve CO2 sequester by irrigating our mid plane deserts. One of the canal paths through the Rockies could be coupled with a SF to Denver Maglev 2G space ramp using a common power generation infrastructure. Thus promoting Maglev transit as a spinoff of Space Access Maglev launch capacity.
We should build on a strategic infrastructure designed to make USA a Global transportation hub, linking Americas (North Central South) to the old world. Not because this is easy or hard, because this will be our challenge, we must be willing to better mankind.

Feb 26, 2014 11:02am EST  --  Report as abuse
carlmartel wrote:
In Texas, rainfall is about 16.5% of normal or about 83.5% below normal, so another big food producing state is unlikely to make up for California’s losses. Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico are likely to suffer similarly. The US needs a national water pipeline grid to pump meltwater from snow and ice in the north and northeast to the southwest. The US usually watches floods work their ways down the Missouri, Mississippi, Illinois, Ohio, and Tennessee rivers in the spring and summer, but these drown crops and wash away topsoil to make the land less fertile. The pumps and pipelines must be built and installed, so Americans will gain jobs and paychecks for saving their food supply.

For the long term, the US needs photovoltaic (phv) panels on each window of buildings in cities with attachments to the power grid. Phv cells generate electricity with any light, so lights on city buildings at night would generate electricity that can be stored in batteries. The US needs LNG or electric cars with quick chargers (45 minutes) and battery swap stations like China has developed and is installing nationwide. Quick chargers are usually near restaurants that let drivers go eat food or drink coffee while the car charges. The US also needs high speed rail like China to reduce aircraft and buses that burn fossil fuels.

I support LNG vehicles because LNG helps remove methane that could destroy the ozone layer in excessive quantities. The equation is 3 CH4 + 4 O3 = 3 CO2 + 6 H2O. 3 molecules of methane would destroy 4 molecules of ozone and create 3 molecules of CO2 and 6 molecules of H2O in the upper atmosphere where the 9 molecules of CO2 and H2O would act as greenhouse gasses to trap the solar heat brought in by the elimination of 4 molecules of ozone that would reflect some of the sun’s heat and harmful radiation if the methane didn’t destroy it. That’s why we need to burn CH4 on earth’s surface to make CO2 and H2O where green plants can use it to make food and oxygen O2.

Feb 26, 2014 2:29pm EST  --  Report as abuse
amd65 wrote:
@cartmartel rather than pumping water from the North, people (including farmers) should consider moving where there’s water. Trying to grow a Garden of Eden in a desert is not a sustainable solution for the long term.

Feb 26, 2014 11:10pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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