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Soil moisture - the water stored in soil within reach of the plants - is a crucial parameter for a large number of appliactions.

Consequently, the field of microwave remote sensing of soil moisture has been an important research topic since the 1970s. But only in the last few years significant progress towards operational soil moisture services has been made. This progress became possible due to advances in sensor technology and new algorithmic approaches. With the improved algorithms it has been possible to derice soil moisture from existing operational microwave sensors. The first global soil moisture dataset derived from ERS-1/2 scatterometer measurements was released in 2002. The first near-real-time operational soil moisture service was started by EUMETSAT in May 2008 based on METOP ASCAT, which is the successor instrument of the ERS-1/2 scatterometer. Austria has made important contributions to these developments. The algorithms for retrieving soil moisture from the C-band scatterometers on board of ERS-1/2 and METOP have been developed by the Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien). Within EUMETSAT's Satellite Application Facility in Support to Operational Hydrology and Water Management (Hydrology SAF) the Austrian meteorological service (ZMAG) coordinates the soil moisture activities and is responsible for building up operational services for value-added METOP ASCAT soil moisture services based on METOP ASCAT and complementary satellite systems, most importantly SMOS and ENVISAT ASAR, by extending the Hydrology SAF products to Africa and Australia, carrying out extensive calibration and validation (Cal/Val) activities and by developing novel water hazards applications. The considered applications are weather forecasting, drought and yield monitoring, hydrologic prediction, epidemiological modelling, climate change, desertification monitoring and societal risks assessment. A project of comparable thematic focus and breath has not been porposed before. It is expected that the interdisciplinary cooperation of specialists from different fields will lead to important scientific innovations that will promote a wide use of satellite technology in water hazards applications.

For more information, please contact:
Univ.Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Dr. Wolfgang Wagner
Institute of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing                      
Vienna University of Technology
Gußhausstraße 27-29 // 122, 1040 Vienna
Ph.: +43/1/58801 - 12200
Fax: +43/1/58801 - 12299