Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/1/2005
Publication Date: 10/1/2007
Citation: Jasinski, M., Jackson, T., Owe, M. 2007. Soil moisture: A critical underlying role in our changing planet: The view from space. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. p. 124-128. Interpretive Summary:
Technical Abstract: Soil moisture is a fundamental natural resorce of our planet. Located within the top few meters of the land surface, it constitutes only about 0.001 percent of all the water in the world. However, it's repeated fluctuation from wet to dry plays an important role in the earth's constantly changing enviroment, influencing man's daily activities if not his very survival. Spatially variable soil moisture plays several important roles in weather and climate. Contrasts between wet and dry regions affect the heat and water balance of the Earth's surface, influencing atmospheric circulation patterns. Soil moisture is believded to unfluence summer precipitation in the central United States and other large mid-latitude continental regions. Seasonal variability in soil moisture is associated with the El Nino climatic events of the Pacific Ocean. If the frequency and strength of those phenomena deviate due to further climate change, shifts in current soil moisture patterns also would occur, impacting vegetation, water resources, and climate. Because of it's critical role in our enviroment, NASA engineers and scientists have undertaken the challenge of developing satellite sensors to view and understand the Earth's constantly changing soil moisture patterns over a timeframe of days to years. The challenge has been addressed through field experimentation, satellite observations, and computer simulation modeling. The increasing pressure of our world's population on natural resources requires that we monitor and manage them with ever increasing care on a sustained basis. Soil moisture, with its quiet but critical role just below the land surface, is as important to sustaining life on earth as those resources that we can see. Current efforts toward improved satellite observations combined with computer simulation modeling will provide the best opportunity for understanding long-term soil moisture changes and their impact on the global water cycle.