NASA Project Targets Hydraulic Property Using Satellites

Understanding the movement of water in soil is critical for many Earth Science Application (ESA) ranging from a local to global scale. However, soil properties describing these flow processes are often unknown. Furthermore, traditional ground-based measurement techniques for such soil properties are limited to a small scale only. More recently, with the deployment of new Earth observing satellites such as Soil Moisture Active and Passive (SMAP) and Soil Moisture Ocean Salinity (SMOS), measuring soil water retention and hydraulic properties from space is a new unexplored area of research.

Funded by NASA, Dr. Binayak Mohanty and his Vadose Zone Research Group are leading the effort to describe root zone soil water flow mechanisms and to estimate effective hydraulic properties at various spatial scales, ranging from field plot, watershed, river basin, region to the entire continent using space-borne sensors. Their proposed remote sensing, modeling and scaling approach will be evaluated in different hydro-climatic regions such as humid Iowa, semi-humid Oklahoma, and semi-arid Arizona. Determining soil hydraulic properties in complex landscapes and multiple scales from remotely sensed soil moisture data will open up a new paradigm and will have tremendous impacts on our ability to predict terrestrial hydrology, agriculture, weather, climate, and global circulation of water, energy, and chemicals in the environment.

This competitively funded, three-year Science Utilization of SMAP (SUSMAP) project from NASA is based on successful demonstration of the proof-of-the-concept by Dr. Mohanty and his group in the past decade. Many of his publications elucidating these concepts can be found in

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