Earth Imaging Journal: Remote Sensing, Satellite Images, Satellite Imagery
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Some 30 kilometers northwest of Rome, Lake Bracciano has seen a significant drop in water level. The receding shoreline is so prominent that it has become visible in optical satellite data. (Credit: Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2017), processed by ESA)

Scientists are using satellite data to monitor the drought that has gripped Italy in 2017. Wildfires, water scarcity and billions of euros worth of damage to agriculture are just some of the effects of this summer’s drought—not to mention the relentless heat. News of potential water rationing in the capital have made headlines worldwide.

As local authorities work to mitigate the drought, scientists are turning their eyes to the sky for answers. Satellite data on soil moisture show that soils in southern Tuscany have been drier than normal since December 2016. Although drier-than-normal conditions occur regularly, the current situation is uniquely intense and persistent, similar to droughts in 2007 and 2012.

“In the first six months of 2017, we saw less than half of average rainfall in central Italy,” said Luca Brocca from Italy’s Research Institute for Geo-Hydrological Protection, of the National Research Council (IRPI-CNR). “The combination of low rainfall and high temperatures has led to drought, and we will need a significant amount of rainfall to replenish the water lost in the last eight months.”

Other satellite-borne sensors can monitor effects of drought, such as the lowering water levels in lakes.

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