Sep 05, 2017

Italy´s drought seen from space

(5 September 2017) Despite the welcome showers at the weekend, abnormally low soil-moisture conditions persist in central Italy. Scientists are using satellite data to monitor the drought that has gripped the country.

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Wildfires, water scarcity and billions of euros worth of damage to agriculture are just some of the effects of this summer’s drought in Italy – not to mention the relentless heat. News of potential water rationing in the capital have even made headlines worldwide.

As local authorities work to mitigate the drought, scientists are turning their eyes to the sky for answers.

Satellite data on soil moisture show that soils in southern Tuscany have been drier than normal since December 2016. Even though drier than normal conditions occur regularly, the current situation is uniquely intense and persistent, similar to the droughts in 2007 and 2012.

“In the first six months of 2017, we saw less than half of average rainfall in central Italy,” said Luca Brocca from Italy’s Research Institute for Geo-Hydrological Protection, of the National Research Council (IRPI-CNR).

“The combination of low rainfall and high temperatures has led to drought, and we will need a significant amount of rainfall to replenish the water lost in the last eight months.”

IRPI-CNR is closely monitoring the drought situation using a new, long-term and globally available near-real time extension of the satellite soil-moisture dataset from ESA’s Soil Moisture CCI project. The dataset has been developed by the Vienna University of Technology TU Wien and the Dutch company VanderSat B.V. and will soon be made available through the Copernicus Climate Change Service.

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