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Notes from the Field

Forest Sampling

June 17th, 2012 by Brian Campbell

Parag Narvekar. Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Aspen trees (deciduous forest) comprise more than 90% of the sampled SMAPVEX12 forest sites, with an understory layer of shrubs and grass. The dense shrubs make it difficult to access the sites, therefore the soil moisture and vegetation sampling schemes adopted for these sites are different from the cropland sites. A representative circular area of 200 meter diameter is selected for each forest site and within this area intensive ground measurements of soil moisture and vegetation are made.

Even though my research is not directly associated with forested areas it was great to visit these sites along with other team members and get experience of actual conditions, from which to derive the scientific basis for emission and scattering mechanisms responsible for active and passive signals captured by the PALS airborne instrument (and later SMAP).

Diagram and photos of forest vegetation.


To read more, visit the SMAP Blogs from the Field site.

On the Twin Otter

June 16th, 2012 by Brian Campbell

Andreas Colliander
Jet Propulsion Laboratory

On the second science data acquisition flight of PALS (on June 12) I got to fly on board the Twin Otter aircraft for the flight segment after the mid-day refueling stop at Winnipeg airport. Due to the minimal requirement for a second PALS operator on this flight I took Ian’s place on the plane while Seth continued to be in charge of the PALS instrument operation.

The day was beautiful, the skies mostly clear and the ride very smooth (the going can easily get bumpy on a small plane like the Twin Otter) at about 8500 ft altitude as planned for this flight.

Forest and pasture region at the northern end of the experiment area.


Bubble windows allow an extra-aircraft perspective and a look straight down


To read more and see more images, visit the SMAP Blogs from the Field site.

Clear Skies & Forest Sites

June 15th, 2012 by Brian Campbell

Eni Njoku
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Mariko Burgin
University of Michigan

Today the skies are clear. PALS is flying again today, and also flew on June 12th. So this is the third PALS flight day. There is hardly a cloud in sight anywhere as PALS takes off. The soil moisture sampling crews are out.

Location of the forest sites (red) and cropland fields (blue) where access for sampling was granted. Fields where the AAFC long term in situ stations are installed are identified in orange.


Pasture just outside F2 has to be crossed to enter the site. Approximate distance from car to entrance of site is about 300 meters (Day 1: 6/7/2012).


F2 S1: Mariko at easternmost point. Very clay-rich soil in marshy vegetation (6/7/2012).


To read more and see more images, visit the SMAP Blogs from the Field site.

Notes From the Field

June 14th, 2012 by Brian Campbell

Grant Wiseman
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

After much preparation and anticipation it is hard to believe the first week of the SMAPVEX12 campaign is already behind us. The week began with a successful training session held at the Regional Operation Centre (ROC) in Winnipeg. Field teams were instructed on how to use Hydra Probes, CropScan Cameras and Surface Roughness Profilers among other data collection instruments.

The first field sampling day went extremely smooth…

Read more at the SMAP Blogs from the Field site.


Down Days

June 11th, 2012 by Brian Campbell

Eni Njoku

We’ve been rained out for four straight days Friday through Monday due to unstable weather conditions in the area – not exactly what we expected! On the other hand we should certainly observe some pretty wet fields when we make our next PALS flights.

On Saturday things looked good in the early morning despite some low-lying fog and expectations that a weather front to the East might move into the area by early afternoon. So we gave the “Go” signal for the sampling teams to head for the fields. Meanwhile at the airport the fog thickened, so take-off was put on hold. Seth and Ian took advantage of the delay to work on some instrument troubleshooting.

By the time the fog at the airport lifted Rich determined that the weather front was moving in much faster than expected and would probably reach the edge of our sampling domain by mid-morning. So we reluctantly aborted the Twin Otter flight for the day and notified the field crew (who were no doubt also anxious not to get caught in the storm). When the storm hit it was a big one! The tornado chasers were out in force, we heard, but none were sighted according to the news (tornados, that is).

Rachel and Paul starting to take vegetation data

Eni in a soybean field, on a day off

To see what else the SMAPVEX12 team does in their downtime, visit SMAP Blogs from the Field