WA’s record dry captured from space
8 February 2011
The grip of the drought in Western Australia's farming regions is showing up from space.
A new system developed by Landgate's Satellite Remote Services branch has, for the first time, enabled
regional information to be gathered on soil moisture levels throughout the State.
Data analysis shows stark evidence of the affects of the drought on the South West agricultural regions which are on average twenty percent drier than 2009.
Satellite image processing shows the effects of the record dry are widespread, with most farming areas from
Geraldton to Esperance suffering. In some cases soil moisture levels are below what plants require for survival.
The soil moisture analysis system developed by Landgate generates more spatially detailed readings than
traditionally provided by satellite passive microwave sensors. The new method uses multiple thermal imaging to gauge soil moisture at levels never previously achieved. It has pinpointed the hardest hit areas as Wialki, Gabbin, Kondinin, Karlgarin, Wickepin, Toolibin, Salmon Gums and Yilkari.
The new system can also be used in flood monitoring by gauging soil saturation and how that will affect run off from rainfall.
Its applications in both flood and drought monitoring will be universal. The new process complements current measurement methods and is expected to attract widespread scientific interest.
Landgate is Western Australia's primary source of land information and geographic data, providing the accuracy government, business and individuals rely on.
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