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New tool to help farmers better combat drought



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The risk of droughts and forest fires may soon be predictable months in advance, giving Australian meteorologists a powerful new tool in the battle against global warming. Using data from several satellites in Earth orbit, scientists at the National University of Australia began measuring groundwater and soil moisture throughout the country. When combined with computational modeling to simulate the water cycle and plant growth, it gives researchers a detailed picture of the distribution of underwater water and the likely impact on vegetation months later. READ ALSO: "We can actually predict the probability of a plot of land or forest showing real signs of drying out, sometimes up to six months," Professor Albert van Dijk told AAP. "And there's a lot of Australia where we do not have that information and it's really important." This means that farmers will be able to better predict whether the harvests will be harvestable or whether there will be sufficient pasture for the stock. "It will also increase the amount of time available to manage the terrible impacts of drought, such as cattle losses and forest fires," he said. The data is so accurate that the team is able to predict water levels and potential drought in areas of district size up to five square miles. Give your opinion, send a letter to the editor Support the local news that keeps you informed – sign up today "And when combined with weather forecasts, it is even more powerful," said Professor van Dijk. The research team is already talking with the Bureau of Meteorology to find ways to integrate their observations with existing bureau modeling and tools. "And it's not just Australia that we can do this globally," said Professor van Dijk. The research was published in Nature Communications on Tuesday. Australian Associated Press

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