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Developing National Soil Moisture Products to Improve Drought Monitoring

This research addresses the critical need to enhance the accuracy and precision of national drought monitoring products by integrating new sources of soil moisture data. Accurate monitoring and prediction of drought events, particularly on sub-seasonal to seasonal timescales, is vital for reducing societal vulnerability through improving drought early warning and drought response. Soil moisture is a key source of information that helps to identify the onset and characterize the severity of agricultural, hydrological, and socioeconomic drought. Accordingly, previous results suggest in situ and satellite remotely sensed soil moisture provide valuable information for drought monitoring and prediction (Anderson et al. 2013; Ford et al. 2015a). Recent advances in satellite-based soil moisture remote-sensing (SMAP and SMOS), land- surface modeling (NLDAS-2 and NASA LIS) and integration of in situ observations (National Soil Moisture Network and North American Soil Moisture Database) provide an opportunity to enhance the spatial resolution and accuracy of national soil moisture products in the United States. These soil moisture products are important for drought prediction and drought monitoring because soil moisture is strongly linked to the onset, severity, and demise of drought events (Hunt et al. 2009; Hayes et al. 2011). However, soil moisture data are collected by many agencies and organizations in the United States using a variety of instruments for diverse applications. These data are often distributed and represented in disparate formats, posing significant challenges for reuse. In response to this challenge the President’s Climate Action Plan called for the development of a National Drought Resilience Partnership to better manage drought-related risks by linking information with drought preparedness and longer-term resilience strategies (The White House, 2013). One component of the National Drought Resilience Partnership is developing a coordinated national soil moisture network. The National Integrated Drought Information System has funded a series of workshops and a pilot project to advance this goal. The pilot has served as a reference architecture for a Coordinated National Soil Moisture Network (NSMN) and ultimately demonstrated that in situ soil moisture sensor data could be integrated in real-time from a variety of sources and made accessible at a single common endpoint (Lucido et al., in preparation). During the recent NSMN workshop, held in Boulder, CO in June 2016, the top priority identified by the workshop participants from research and operations communities was near-real-time, national soil moisture products that integrate in situ, satellite-derived, and modeled soil moisture. Given the demand and importance of near-real-time, national soil moisture data the goal of this project is to develop a national-scale drought monitoring product integrating multiple, diverse sources of soil moisture information to improve drought monitoring activities (e.g., U.S. Drought Monitor) and drought early warning. This goal will be achieved by addressing three main objectives:

1) Assess the fidelity of various satellite remote sensing- and model-based soil moisture
products using the North American Soil Moisture Database stations as a benchmark.
2) Integrate remote sensing and modeled soil moisture information with in situ measurements
to develop a national-scale, near-real time soil moisture product for drought monitoring.
3) Design and develop a proof-of-concept cyber infrastructure for delivery of the gridded soil
moisture product

This project specifically addresses the MAPP Competition 1 priority area of advancing operational drought monitoring systems to improve the Nation’s capacity to manage drought- related risk. We will be using datasets from the North American Soil Moisture Database, NLDAS- 2, and U.S. Drought Monitor. Our project goals are closely aligned with the mission of the NOAA Drought Task Force (i.e., achieve significant advances in the ability to monitor and predict drought over North America, and progressing drought early warning systems and experimental drought monitoring tools).

Climate Risk Area: Water Resources

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