The Bureau of Economic Geology The University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences
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Curious livestock watch the installation of a soil monitoring station near Fredericksburg
Soil moisture is integrally linked to weather, water resources, agriculture, and ecosystems. Although the measurement of soil moisture is key to closing the water, energy, and carbon cycles, Texas is one of the most undermonitored areas in the country, and soil-moisture data has been hard to come by. Thanks to the Bureau’s Todd Caldwell and other researchers, however, this situation is quickly changing. The Texas Soil Observation Network (TxSON) is the first step toward building a comprehensive real-time monitoring network in Texas. In partnership with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Outputs from subsurface sensors are routed to a tripod (see picture above) containing additional meteorological sensors, a solar panel, modem, and data logger.the Lower Colorado River Authority, and the Hill Country Underground Water Conservation District, TxSON will provide hydrologic monitoring for improved flood and drought management, weather forecasts, emergency response, and numerous related scientific and public processes. The initial effort covers a 500-sq-mi area around Fredericksburg, which will provide a valuable working blueprint for eventual complete statewide coverage. TxSON will also provide necessary calibration data to NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) Program, which will use satellite technology to produce global coverages of soil moisture and significantly enhance weather forecasting skills.
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©2014 Bureau of Economic Geology, The University of Texas at Austin Bridget Scanlon Project STARR