Several SPoRT Land Information System (LIS) soil moisture and temperature fields have been evaluated for operational utility at the Huntsville Weather Forecast Office (WFO) for several years now. In fact, their usage here dates back to early 2011. The data have recently been made available in AWIPS II, in March of this year. Prior to that, we had to rely on imagery of specific variables from the SPoRT website. The data have proved to be useful for drought assessments and in several cases for assessing the potential for areal/river flooding. I’ve pointed out some of these uses in previous blog posts:
In order to get a broader perspective and to properly introduce some of the LIS soil moisture variables to other WFOs, SPoRT is conducting a more formal assessment with a couple of collaborating WFOs, Raleigh and Houston, in addition to the Huntsville office. The assessment began officially on August 1st, and will run through the end of October. Assessment participants at each office will be filling our surveys pertaining to their use of the data while assessing their utility for various operational situations. To prepare NWS forecasters, SPoRT created a couple of training modules (LIS Primer module, and LIS Applications Module) and made those available prior to the start of the assessment.
Yesterday, when providing input for the U.S. Drought Monitor, I used the 0-10 cm Volumetric Soil Moisture (image 1) as evidence that the area of D0 (abnormally dry) conditions needed to be expanded northward.
Notice the patch of brown colors in the center of the image, which is located in north central Alabama. Soil moisture values here were lower than in adjacent areas to the south that already held a D0 designation. With this evidence in hand, I called a field agricultural agent of the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service in Cullman County (which serves this area). The agent affirmed that vegetable crops were beginning to be affected by the recent lack of rainfall and dry soils in the area. So, the decision was made to expand the D0 slightly northward into this area.
This is just one example of the use of these data. They can help make a more effective drought assessment overall, and the 3 km resolution of the data are a great benefit not available in standard, legacy soil moisture analyses.