PARIS, Aug. 17 (UPI) — A European “water satellite” is giving researchers a different way to look at the recent devastating monsoon floods in Pakistan, officials say.
The European Space Agency’s orbiting Smos spacecraft can sense the moisture level in soils, and the unique instrument has been trained on the areas in Pakistan where some 20 million people in 62,000 square miles — almost a fifth of the country — have been affected by the floods, the BBC reported.
Data gathered by the satellite has been processed to make a series of maps covering the spreading reach of the flooding.
The satellite carries instruments that sense the natural emission of microwaves coming off the earth’s surface, a signal that changes with levels of moisture in the soil.
Scientists hope once the Smos observation technique has become sufficiently mature it will be able to play a leading role in disaster mitigation.
Satellite data is increasingly being used in the relief response to major disasters, and in the case of Pakistan the world’s satellite fleets were mobilized on Aug. 2 to provide space-borne information under the International Charter on Space and Disasters.
The charter was activated by U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance.
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