Satellite launched to explore climate change



The European Space Agency (ESA) has launched a 460 million U.S. dollar satellite into space to study the effects of climate change. The satellite which was launched Monday will measure water movements on the Earth in order to better understand the shifts in the world's climate.


The Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) probe was sent into orbit on board a Russian Rockot launcher from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in northern Russia. Scientists hope SMOS will be able to provide important information in connection with the planet's vital water cycle. The device may also hep develop more accurate weather forecasts. It is the first satellite to take measurements of the water in the Earth's soil and the saltiness of its oceans.


Yann Kerr, scientific director of the SMOS mission, said, "Climate change is a fact, but its impact on precipitation, evaporation, surface runoff and flood risks is still uncertain. The availability of water plays a more important role on these impacts than temperature itself."


SMOS will measure the water content of soil across the planet every three days to a depth of up to 2m. This will enable scientists to monitor photosynthesis and plant growth, which is critical for calculating the process by which carbon dioxide is released and absorbed, especially by plants and the oceans. The probe will also measure changes in the salt content of the surface of the sea, thus improving the understanding of what drives ocean circulation patterns around the world. Variations in the salinity of ocean waters depend on the addition or removal of fresh water through evaporation and precipitation and, in polar regions, on the freezing and melting of ice.


The mission is intended to last three years, but may be extended to five.

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