to use space images to help monitor California drought
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[February 26, 2014]
By Laila Kearney
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
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
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,
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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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