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NC CSC Researcher Gabriel Senay Featured in Smithsonian Magazine

The most recent issue of Smithsonian Magazine (May 2015) highlights work being done by the North Central Climate Science Center’s Gabriel Senay to predict famine in Ethiopia’s central Rift Valley. Gabriel, a member of USGS’s Earth Resources Observation Science Center, uses remote sensing tools and satellite data to derive globally consistent and locally useful environmental indicators for monitoring hydrologic anomalies that lead to drought and excessive moisture. These indicators can be signals for crop production, water resource availability, and even human health.

During his research, Gabriel noticed a plot of hot zones along the Rift Valley’s breadbasket, despite 2014 being considered a “good year” for agricultural production according to Ethiopia’s 70 million subsistence farmers. These hot zones can be the result of less evapotranspiration from plants – a sign that agriculture may not be thriving as it appears. These temperatures spikes can happen weeks before plants begin to lose their green color, and have important social and environmental implications for those on the ground.

Although the Smithsonian featured Gabriel’s work at the global scale, the NC CSC is applying similar data-integration techniques and modeling approaches to monitor and assess the seasonal evolution of drought and end-of-seasons outlook using multiple sensors such as Landsat, MODIS, SMAP, and others at multiple spatial scales within the north central United States. For more information on our drought research, visit the foundational building blocks page of our website.