Earth Imaging Journal: Remote Sensing, Satellite Images, Satellite Imagery
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SMOS data show the difference in soil moisture in Europe from February 2012 and February 2011. The red color (negative values) indicates 2012 is drier than February 2011, while the blue depicts more soil moisture in 2012 than 2011.

Although Western Europe enjoys ongoing mild weather trends, the European Space Agency’s Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) mission reveals the negative consequences of this recent bout of “good weather.”

The trend of below-average rainfall across Europe has continued into the first months of 2012. Western Europe is experiencing a severe lack of water because of this trend. Concern about the deficit of water is rising across European countries and their respective water agencies, particularly in Spain, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

The absence of sufficient water resources threatens crops, which in turn increases food prices and can cause a shortage of drinking water or affect industry by drying up shipping routes. Autumn saw particularly dry weather, disrupting shipping in the Rhine and Elbe rivers, and even sparking a forest fire in Bavaria.

The trend of low precipitation in Europe continued into the first months of 2012, reflected in readings from the SMOS water mission. Launched in 2009, SMOS looks at microwave radiation emitted from Earth to calculate the amount of moisture held in the surface layer of soil, up to a depth of about 5 cm.

Image courtesy of Credits CESBIO/ESA.

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