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SMC shield5. Current Research

In this section, we highlight some recent research achievements of the Division. More detailed summaries are contained in the Division's bi-annual Reports.

Environmental Monitoring Branch

New Vegetation Products Transitioned to Operations

A VCI product that measures the condition of local vegetation world-wide and a Global Vegetation Fraction (GVF) that provides data on the fraction of green vegetation in a global array of grid boxes have been successfully transitioned from research to operations in 2004. Both products are based on AVHRR observations and are produced weekly.

The VCI indicates whether the health, vigor and amount of vegetation in a particular area are above normal or below normal for that time of year. Together with satellite observations of land surface temperatures, the VCI can be used to monitor drought conditions globally.

The GVF shows how much of the land surface is covered with actively growing vegetation. It is used in NWP Models to calculate the rates of heat and moisture transfer from the surface to the atmosphere. An example of the GVF for North America for June 16, 2003 is shown below.

Green Vegetation Fraction

Figure 6: Green Vegetation Fraction for the week of June 16, 2003.

Detection of Severe Drought in Horn of Africa

Using the AVHRR Vegetation Condition Index, SMCD scientists have detected areas of extreme drought conditions in parts of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia for the sixth year in a row. These conditions leave the region with threats of starvation, water shortages, widespread crop losses and disease outbreaks.

Drought in Africa - chart of trends

A New Capability: Automated Ice Cover Maps

SMCD has developed an algorithm to identify and map ice cover using observations from GOES Imager and NOAA AVHRR. Ice distribution is derived over seas and oceans surrounding North America as well as over internal water bodies (lakes, reservoirs, etc.).

The retrieval results are validated against snow and ice cover maps generated within snow and ice maps prepared at the NOAA National Ice Center (NIC). Ice cover will be added to currently operational North America automated snow cover maps after a year-round validation of the product is completed.

Snow and ice coverage map

Figure 8: Comparison of snow/ice maps produced using the new SMCD automated algorithm (left) and the NOAA Interactive Multisensor Snow and Ice Mapping System (IMS) for December 27, 2004.

Data, algorithms, and images presented on STAR websites are intended for experimental use only and are not supported on an operational basis.  More information

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