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NASA has unveiled its new Multi-Spectral Drought Indexer (MSDI), improving existing technology for measuring absorption and reflection of sunlight by plants in order to make maps of unprecedented detail. The data, which come from satellites, are translated by researchers into monthly maps of vegetation color changes, thus indicating how much soil moisture is available to plants. The existing index, Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), has been in operation for 20 years, providing a relatively long time range over which to track plant moisture. Ultimately, the 20-year data in combination with the new high resolution data will be used to predict the intensity of future droughts. This site provides an overview of MSDI technology and drought studies. Highlights of the site include a page of images of North America and Africa comparing average vegetation color with that of drought years (.jpeg, .tiff), and animations of season cycles, satellite imaging technology, and drought history (QuickTime). Links to the original NASA press release and to the overseers, Goddard Space Center's Scientific Visualization Studio, are also present. Because of the potential for serious drought to immobilize nations for years at a time, the Multi-spectral Drought Indexer's release is important news to the world over.
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