The creative minds behind a new user-friendly website that lets ranchers see where the grass is greener on rangelands –envision the tool will be used in other applications - like tracking wildfire danger.
The “DroughtView” website uses remote sensing imagery – which takes a vegetation picture of the earth’s surface, and then takes that satellite information to allow users to actually view surface greenness.
“It’s a ‘Swiss Army Knife’ for land management out here in the Southwest,” says Michael Crimmins, Cooperative Extension associate specialist in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences & associate professor in Climate Science; Soil, Water and Environmental Sciences department.
“We can see where areas are ‘brown’ and that will give us an indication of where there’s fire risk. As fires burn, we can actually watch them on DroughtView,” Crimmins says.
The site receives data from the “MODIS” satellite, and while it measures what’s on the earth’s surface – MODIS, and other satellites, may not be able to “see” under clouds, when there’s cloud cover. The site addresses the cloud-cover factor, according to Jeremy Weiss, climate and geospatial extension scientist in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment, who works on the website along with Crimmins.
“DroughtView uses the ‘best’ imagery during a 16-day period,” Weiss says. "The compositing procedure selects the best image within that period, to minimize the effects of cloud contamination or other issues that come up in terms of data quality,” Weiss says.
Another feature of the site: users can also enter information, based on their own observations of things like plants and wildlife, under the “Reported Impacts” category on the site.
A local drought impact group, environmental scientists, plant geographers, federal and state land management agents, as well as ranchers are already using DroughtView.
Marques Munis, a district conservationist with the USDA-NRCS, who works with Arizona Ranchers, said he’s introduced DroughtView to ranchers he’s worked with, and likes it for ‘at a glance’ information, says it’s user-friendly and helpful.
“Ranchers are making management decisions all the time on when to move cattle to different pastures… DroughtView is another piece of information to understand what’s going on in the landscape - how much a rancher can graze without hurting the plant community- what’s available for his cows, and other wildlife that rely on those plants,” Munis says.
Crimmins says an older online tool using data collected by “NASA” and “NOAA” (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), originally called “RangeView” – was the inspiration for DroughtView.
Website developers in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, along with input from a team in its School of Natural Resources and the Environment worked together to craft the technologically updated, mobile friendly, GPS-ready DroughtView site.
Crimmins says DroughtView illustrates the mission of UA Cooperative Extension – which is to take the science of the University, and share it with the people of Arizona.
“It’s the direct connection from high level science to solving problems on the ground, taking a satellite in space – and supporting a specific action at a ranch, at a park,” Crimmins says. “It is the spirit of Cooperative Extension, literally on the ground, making the science useful, applying it and bringing it to the right scale.”
Click here to check out DroughtView.
Jeremy Weiss explains DroughtView at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences “Poster Session” - a chance for experts in Cooperative Extension and the college to explain their latest studies, projects, and research
*** According to Crimmins and Weiss, funding and other support for DroughtView has come from NOAA, the USDA Southwest Climate Hub, Arizona Remote Sensing Center, CLIMAS, the Arizona Space Grant Consortium, and the Water, Environmental, and Energy Solutions initiative.***