My role on this project is to use satellite data to identify and monitor changes in soil and vegetation, and extract useful information for modelling flood scenarios. I’ve worked in using remote sensing for two decades, both developing satellite instruments within the American and European space agencies and using those instruments to get information about the land surface.
There are currently about 600 satellites in orbit looking down on the Earth, operated both privately and by government agencies. Some of them are sophisticated cameras capturing pictures, sometimes including light not visible to the human eye, which can be useful in estimating soil or vegetation temperature, identifying different plants or telling how dense or healthy they are. Some satellites use radar to make maps of topography, and some use wavelengths that can probe into the soil and vegetation to reveal how much water they contain. We can use this information, watching how temperature and soil water content change with time, to see how porous the soil layers are, and predict how quickly flood waters will be absorbed into the soil.
In collaboration with CGI and CEH, I will be evaluating the range of remotely-sensed data available, developing this data into useful information, and helping to integrate it into models to improve our understanding of how landscape characteristics affect flooding.
Image: European Space Agency Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity mission © ESA