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NASA’s Maps of Global Soil Conditions Are the Future of Farming

Find water anywhere.

Filed Under Data & Maps

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is now using data collected from the first NASA satellite mission dedicated to measuring the water content of soils. These maps created by the space agency will be used to monitor global croplands, make commodity forecasts, and will help the USDA forecast crops globally.

The Soil Moisture Active Passive mission, or SMAP, launched in 2015 in order to map the amount of water in soils worldwide. On Friday, NASA announced that the agency is providing the mission with new tools developed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center that will better predict where there could be too much or too little moisture in the soil to sustain farming.

Map created with NASA's SMAP data from May 16-18, 2018

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“There’s a lot of need for understanding, monitoring and forecasting crops globally,” said John Bolten, a research scientist at Goddard. “SMAP is NASA’s first satellite mission devoted to soil moisture, and this is a very straightforward approach to applying that data.” NASA presents the satellite data in maps that are rendered to resemble watercolor paintings. Soils that are wetter than normal are seen in shades of greens, while those that are drier than normal are seen in shades of browns.

Before this collaboration, the USDA had used computer models that would incorporate precipitation and temperature observations to indirectly calculate soil moisture. However, this approach was prone to error in areas that lacked high-quality, ground-based instrumentation to collect the data. Now, NASA is incorporating direct SMAP data on soil moisture into Crop Explorer, the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service website that reports on regional droughts, floods, and crop forecasts.

The SMAP viewer is still in beta but is expected to provide updated global coverage every three days once it launches. The maps will be managed for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and will provide Crop Explorer with timely updates that are essential for monitoring conditions and forecasting productivity.

This cross-agency collaboration will do more than help the USDA identify farming trends. By monitoring moisture in the soil globally, scientists can more accurately forecast conditions that could have tremendous economic and social impact.

Media via NASA, USDA

Record Number of Wildfires in Brazil Will Have Global Consequences

Sao Paulo plunged into darkness after forest fire smoke filled the sky.

On Tuesday, thousands of people took to Twitter to share the hashtag #PrayforAmazonia. The viral movement came as the skies above Sao Paulo blackened with the smoke from forest fires burning in the Brazilian states of Amazonas and Rondonia, over 1,000 miles away from the city of Sao Paulo.

Many of the tweets express shock that parts of the Amazon rainforest, the largest rainforest in the world, have been aflame for the past two weeks. Social media analytics site Hashtracking estimates that over 700,000 tweets with the hashtag #PrayforAmazonia have been sent in the past 30 days, amid a record number of forest fires in the Amazon this year.

Climate Change Is About to Make Allergy Season a Whole Lot Longer

You've been warned. 

By Cecilia Sierra Heredia, Jordan Brubacher, and Tim Takaro

Every year, without fail, summer brings changes to our surroundings: more sunlight, heat, greenness, and flowers, among many others. For some people, these changes also mean increasing physical discomfort because along with the flowers, trees, and grass comes pollen.

The discomfort caused by pollen can be felt by many people, like watery eyes or a stuffy nose. More often than not, people first turn to the internet to find out what their symptoms mean and to identify some possible options for relief.

How to Hack the Bottom Dollar Effect to Get the Most Out of a Big Purchase

Here's how to keep this phenomenon from ruining your next big purchase.

I recently spent a lot of time scrolling through Trek Madone SLRs online — the elite racing bicycle of my dreams. That bike would essentially clean out my bank account if I was crazy enough to “add to cart.” But for just a second my finger hovered over the buy button. What if I were to throw caution to the wind and buy that sweet carbon machine?

How Hummus Can Solve World Hunger

What if we were able to feed the world on plant protein?

By Richard Trethowan
Filed Under 2050, Cities & Environment

A UN report released last week found a quarter of the world’s carbon emissions come from the food chain, particularly meat farming. This has prompted calls to sharply reduce emissions from agriculture and to feed the world on plant protein.

Can we feed a growing global population without increasing the amount of farmland? It’s tough, but certainly possible.

Inverse Daily: The Problem With CBD

A new systematic research review from Mayo Clinic warns there’s still a lot to learn.

Wha-pop, Inverse Daily fam? While I struggle to tear my eyes away from this very bizarre photo set of birds carrying chicks under their wings, let’s get you ready for the weekend.

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