How to measure all the fresh water in the world

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NASA and French Space Agency CNES Plans to launch satellites with Ka-band sensors End of 2022 As part of a joint mission, called Surface water and ocean topography (SWOT), with the help of Canadian and British space agencies. In addition to the ocean, this SUV-sized satellite will observe the Earth’s lakes, rivers and reservoirs in its 21-day repeated orbit.

“We will get global information about surface water in an unprecedented way,” said Cedric David, A hydrologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Scientists will be able to observe changes in the amount of water stored on the earth’s surface and estimate how much water flows through the river system.

Researchers such as Kitambo say that SWOT’s observations will improve the accuracy and quality of its numerical models, which simulate and predict how water expands, drains, and flows over time. Specifically, scientists can use SWOT data to calculate the daily discharge or the amount of water flowing through channels in the rainforest from the main tributaries of the Congo and the center of the basin. This will help them understand the development of seasonal floods, which will affect everything from fisheries and agriculture to wildlife habitat and human safety.

David pointed out that, along with other similar projects, the new mission will allow NASA to focus on almost every part of the Earth’s water cycle, including oceans, soil moisture, groundwater, ice sheets, and now surface water. “Many of us call this the golden age of observing the water cycle from space,” he said.

Maria Gallucci is an energy and environmental reporter based in Brooklyn, New York.

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