Creativity Prize (Co-Winners)

ZredaDesiletsThe team of Dr. Marek Zreda (University of Arizona) and Dr. Darin Desilets (Sandia National Laboratory, USA).
They are being awarded for their groundbreaking work with the Cosmic Ray Probe, a technology which uses cosmic-ray neutrons to measure soil moisture content and snow pack thickness over an area of tens of hectares — passively, non-invasively and economically.

These measurements provide hydrologists and atmospheric scientists with an entirely new perspective on water near the interface between the ground and the atmosphere, as well as giving water managers, engineers and agriculturalists an invaluable but economical new tool to monitor a critical part of the hydrologic cycle.

soil-waterUntil now, techniques for measuring soil water content and snow pack have operated at the point scale (e.g. invasive probes inserted into soil or snow) or at the kilometer scale (e.g. satellite and airborne remote sensing images). However, many hydrologic processes operate at a scale of tens to hundreds of meters - and it is this critical "blind spot" that the Cosmic Ray Probe reveals.

This new technology can be employed in water supply forecasting and promises to improve the utilization of irrigation water and should have its greatest impact in water scarce regions.

The probe can also be used for predictive weather and climate models by measuring soil water condition, since soil water content is currently a major source of uncertainty in weather and climate forecasts, due largely to a lack of suitable observations.

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