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Soil Moisture and Human Health


Did you know that soil moisture plays a vital role in human health? Those nasty little critters called mosquitoes love warm, wet soil, and can carry extremely dangerous viruses and diseases. We also can use SMAP soil moisture data to assist famine early warning systems.

Improved seasonal soil moisture forecasts using SMAP data will directly benefit famine early warning systems particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where hunger remains a major human health factor and the population harvests its food from rain-fed agriculture in highly monsoonal (seasonal) conditions. In the temperate and extra-tropical latitudes, freeze/thaw measurements from SMAP will benefit environmental risk models and early warning systems related to the potential expansion of many disease vectors that are constrained by the timing and duration of seasonal frozen temperatures.

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SMAP will also benefit the emerging field of landscape epidemiology (aimed at identifying and mapping vector habitats for human diseases such as malaria) where direct observations of soil moisture and freeze/thaw status can provide valuable information on vector population dynamics. Soil moisture in the upper layer has a direct effect on dust generation and air quality in desert and arid environments. Indirect benefits will also be realized as SMAP data will enable better weather forecasts that lead to improved predictions of heat stress and virus spreading rates. Better flood forecasts will lead to improved disaster preparation and response. Soil moisture provides more accurate information on the state of saturated soils that impacts stream flow, nutrient loading and turbidity; and these both lead to better management of urban water supply and quality.

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