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Soils of U.K., Europe drying out

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Paris (UPI) May 9, 2011
Satellite measurements show that soils of Britain and Europe are drying out from record low rainfall in the region this spring, researchers say.

The European Space Agency Smos satellite has been gathering information being analyzed by meteorologists, hydrologists and other scientists, the BBC reported Monday.

Last month was the warmest April on record in Britain, with less than half normal rainfall, the BBC said.

When soils are dry, water available for evaporation is limited and incoming solar energy will warm the surface, raising the temperatures above it.

Over a sustained period, this can lead to drought conditions, scientists said.

Some studies of the massive European heat wave of summer 2003 suggest if meteorologists had more information about the relative dryness of soils in the springtime, they could have been able to better predict the extreme conditions that followed a few months later, researchers said.

Meteorologists at the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, based at Reading in the United Kingdom, welcomed the new data.

"We already have soil moisture data in our forecast system which does not use Smos, and our soil moisture data is already quite good," center director Patricia de Rosnay said.

"But there is potential to improve it with Smos."

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