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Drought in Action

The National Coordinated Soil Moisture Monitoring Network

Transforming Soil Moisture Information Delivery

Soil moisture is a critical land surface variable, and an accurate depiction of soil moisture conditions can provide valuable insights for agricultural monitoring, weather prediction, and drought and flood early warning. The United States has a prolific but disconnected collection of in situ (“in place,” i.e., in-ground) soil moisture monitoring networks at the national, state, and local levels, as well as various satellite and modeling efforts that generate soil moisture data. The absence of coordination leads to a host of problems, including many states lacking adequate monitoring, multiple datasets that are not standardized or directly comparable, and lack of clarity around how to target investments to improve the overall monitoring infrastructure. National coordination is needed to guide network deployment, data integration, and user-focused product development.

Working with the USDA and other partners, NIDIS is leading the effort to establish the National Coordinated Soil Moisture Monitoring Network (NCSMMN): a multi-agency, multi-institutional initiative to integrate soil moisture data from around the country and to capitalize on its transformative potential for a wide range of applications across sectors of the economy.

What Is the NCSMMN?

The National Coordinated Soil Moisture Monitoring Network (NCSMMN) aims to deliver high-quality, easy-to-understand soil moisture products and tools to support better hazard early warning systems; reduce risks from hazards such as drought, flood, and fire; improve crop production and resilience; and improve characterization of water budgets and climate models.

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Dried out, cracked soil

NCSMMN Goals and Accomplishments

Goals of the Interagency NCSMMN 

  • Establish a national “network of networks” that effectively demonstrates data and operational coordination of in situ networks and addresses gaps in coverage
  • Support R&D on innovative techniques to merge in situ soil moisture data with remotely-sensed and modeled hydrologic data to create near-real-time, gridded, user-friendly soil moisture maps and associated tools
  • Build a community of practice and expertise around soil moisture measurement and interpretation—a “network of people” that links data providers, researchers, and the user community
Early Successes of the NCSMMN
A cross section of dry soil

​NIDIS-Supported Research for the NCSMMN

National Research

NOAA’s U.S. Climate Reference Network (USCRN)

Since 2009, NIDIS has provided funding for the development of and research based on a high-quality national soil moisture monitoring network, the U.S. Climate Reference Network (USCRN).

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Blended National Soil Moisture Products to Improve Drought Monitoring

Developed by Ohio State University and Southern Illinois University with NIDIS funding, the research-based website is a proof-of-concept product that blends multiple diverse, quality-controlled soil moisture data into gridded, near-real-time national maps.

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Soil Moisture Modeling Using the National Water Model

Researchers at NOAA’s Physical Sciences Laboratory are collaborating with partners in NOAA’s Office of Water Prediction and Climate Prediction Center to develop prototype products for drought monitoring using NOAA’s state-of-the-art National Water Model.

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Regionally Focused Research

Related Content

Data & Maps | Soil Moisture

Access tools to monitor observed data in crop, topsoil, and soil moisture, surface water, changes and anomalies, water storage, soil moisture outlooks, and more.

Research & Learn | Flash Drought

In its simplest form, flash drought is generally considered the rapid onset of drought, which can cause extensive, unexpected damage to agriculture and economies. Changes in soil moisture can provide an early warning of flash drought. 

Research & Learn | NIDIS-Supported Interdisciplinary Research

Research to better understand how droughts evolve and how their impacts are mitigated is critical to providing timely and reliable information, products, and services in support of drought early warning.