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GRACE-FO mission

Topics Covered: Awareness in space.

GRACE-FO mission

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Key features and objectives of the mission.

Context: New satellite-based, weekly global maps of soil moisture and groundwater wetness conditions were developed by US space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) on March 31, 2020.

How were these maps produced?

Data available from NASA and German Research Center for Geosciences’ Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow On (GRACE-FO) satellites was used to derive these global maps.

  • The satellite-based observations of changes in water distribution were integrated with other data within a computer model that simulated water and energy cycles.
  • The model then produced — among other outputs — time-varying maps of the distribution of water at three depths: Surface soil moisture, root zone soil moisture (roughly the top three feet of soil) and shallow groundwater.
  • The maps have a resolution of up to 8.5 miles, providing continuous data on moisture and groundwater conditions across the landscape.

Why do we need these data?

The scientific community believes data available through this project would fill existing gaps in understanding the full picture of wet and dry conditions that can lead to drought.

These tools are absolutely critical to helping us address and offset some of the impacts anticipated, whether it is from population growth, climate change or just increased water consumption in general.

The data would also help in managing the selection of appropriate agricultural crops and predicting yields.

About GRACE- FO mission:

The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-on (GRACE-FO) mission is a partnership between NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ).

GRACE-FO is a successor to the original GRACE mission, which began orbiting Earth on March 17, 2002. The GRACE missions measure variations in gravity over Earth’s surface, producing a new map of the gravity field every 30 days.

  • GRACE-FO will continue the work of tracking Earth’s water movement to monitor changes in underground water storage, the amount of water in large lakes and rivers, soil moisture, ice sheets and glaciers, and sea level caused by the addition of water to the ocean.
  • These discoveries provide a unique view of Earth’s climate and have far-reaching benefits to society and the world’s population.

Sources: down to earth.