The European Space Agency (ESA) announced on 16 July 2007 the availability of new soil moisture maps for southern Africa that could lead to better forecasting of weather and extreme events such as floods and droughts. The maps, based on data from ESA's Envisat satellite, have a spatial resolution of one kilometer. Soil moisture plays an important role in the global water cycle: with too little moisture, rain-fed crops and vegetation can wilt; too much moisture increases the risk of flooding, flash floods, and erosion.
“This [mapping] brings hydrology into the 21st century and makes life better for people,” said Geoff Pegram of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Pegram served as the African technical partner and liaison to African user groups for the ESAbacked SHARE (Soil Moisture for Hydrometeorological Applications in the Southern African Development Community Region) project, which is demonstrating that spaceborne Synthetic Aperture Radar instruments can deliver soil moisture data at high spatial and temporal resolution. For more information, visit the Web site: http://www.ukzn.ac.za/sahg/share/.