SMOS (Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity) was launched on November 2, 2009. This satellite is able to measure soil moisture and ocean salinity globally. SMOS has mapped Earth’s wet and dry soils, helping us to understand the water cycle and supporting water resource management. Global ocean salinity data from SMOS has given us new insight into how rivers and runoff from land are dispersed by ocean currents. Surpassing expectations, SMOS data are also being used to monitor Arctic sea ice extent and thickness, providing daily coverage of the Arctic Ocean. In addition, the satellite can track hurricanes, such as last year’s Hurricane Sandy that devastated parts of the US east coast.
The map, generated using SMOS data, shows the soil moisture values across central Europe on 31 May and 2 June 2013. The blues indicate wetter soils and the yellow and orange colours indicate dryer soils. For example, a value of 0.50 means that there is 500 litres of water in one cubic metre of soil. Heavy rainfall has led to disastrous flooding in Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.