NASA’s new weather-satellite launch may help in Texas drought


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Earlier Thursday morning on KXAN News Today, we were lucky enough to chat with NASA scientists about their new satellite — which was set to launch Thursday morning — that will help scientists forecast the weather more effectively, in addition to better understanding droughts like the one plaguing Central Texas. Officials canceled the launch at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California due to upper-level winds that were too high, and they will try again Friday.

The new satellite is called SMAP, short for Soil Moisture Active Passive. It will map global soil moisture, among other things. It also promises to help meteorologist — like ours in the First Warning Weather Center — produce more accurate forecasts for viewers.

“Knowing how much water is in the soil, and whether it is frozen or thawed, has profound applications for society, from better forecasting of natural disasters like floods and droughts to helping prevent food shortages,” says Michelle Handleman, with the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Dr. John Bolten spoke to us from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, explaining about the satellite to give us an even better understanding of it. Bolten gave us an idea of how it will help us get a better look at the Central Texas drought. As you may know, we are in the middle of a multiyear drought. The SMAP is going to help scientists get a better grip on the changing climate.

Check out the KXAN Weather Blog for more about this. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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