Important floods in Australia monitored thanks to SMOS NRT soil moisture

Category : L2

SMOS near real time  (NRT) soil moisture product has many applications. Nemesio Rodriguez Fernandez at CESBIO, monitored the recent floods in Australia using SMOS NRT product.

20190205-TownsvilleClick to start animation

Cyclone Oswald over Australia monitored by SMOS

Category : CATDS, L3

In January 2013, ex-Tropical Cyclone Oswald passed trough parts of Queensland and New South Wales, Australia, causing widespread turmoil including storms, at least six tornadoes over south-eastern Queensland, and severe flooding in many areas within 200km of the coast. Coastal regions of Queensland were the most impacted with Mundubbera, Eidsvold, Gayndah and Bundaberg in the Wide Bay-Burnett hit severely.

For more information about this event:

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology recorded the amount of precipitations (as shown in the following figure), which is the cumulative precipitation between the 23rd and the 29th of January.

Rainfall over Australia at the end of January

At the CATDS, the 10-day product covering the end of January shows a large difference in soil moisture during this period. In the figure below, the left plot shows the minimum value of soil moisture recorded between the 21st and the 31st of January, and the right plot shows the maximum value of soil moisture over the same period.

Minimum and maximum values of Soil Moisture in Australie at the end of January 2013

The Weather Bureau said that the flooding could have been worse if the region wasn’t so dry before the rain started. The CATDS saw both conditions: a dry spell in the middle of January, and a significant increase in soil moisture after the cyclone.

Important precipitations in Australia

Category : L2

Early February 2012, the Eastern part of Australia was hit by important rainfalls, and  the cyclone Jasmine reached the Northern part of the country  ( The Australian Bureau of Meteorology records the amount of precipitations, as shown in the following figure which is the cumulative precipitation between the 1st and the 7th of February.


As a consequence, Eastern Australia suffered from serious floods. See the following reports:

The SMOS mission clearly sees these events. The following figure represents the average soil moisture for the first week of February. Only ascending overpasses are selected, meaning that the soil moisture is measured at about 6 a.m. local solar time. The afternoon overpasses present the same pattern. The area with a soil moisture higher than 0.5 m3/m3 (dark blue / grey) depict flooded areas or saturated soil. Note that the pattern of the precipitations and the SMOS soil moisture are well correlated (R=0.72).


SMOS and Yasi … a look back and a tentative conclusion

Category : Data

After the fact, as Yasi hit Queensland on February 3rd, we may try to analyse what gave our amateur extreme event forecast attempt!

Actually, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology was quite accurate and Yasi hit exactly were forecasted apparently. SMOS also was accurate and soils which appeared to be the dryest in this area were so, meaning that runoff was not too extreme and floods were not too bad except in the south (MacKay) where SMOS reported high soil moisture levels ( see previous post)

rainfall on the arrival of Yasi

Bom rainfall map on the arrival of Yasi (Feb 3)

BoM map for the following day (Feb 4)

BoM map for the following day (Feb 4)

And the smos maps are as follows

SMOS 2/2/2011 morning

SMOS 2/2/2011 morning

SMOS 2/2/2011 after noon

SMOS 2/2/2011 after noon

03/Feb 2011 pm

03/Feb 2011 pm

So it seems that SMOS did provide some information which proved to be correct. I am sure our colleagues at BoM will make more extensive analysis of this, as they have all the data and skills, but, from our little corner, it appears that SMOS could be used to forecast, for a given rainfall forecast, flood risks….

to be continued…

animated SMOS soil moisture maps for Yasi

animated SMOS soil moisture maps for Yasi

Claire and Yann (and BoM)

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