Global warming has dramatically increased the unpredictability of weather patterns, but what if we could more accurately pinpoint the future location and intensity of floods and droughts? That might be possible if all goes as planned with the Soil Moisture and Salinity (SMOS) probe, launched today by the European Space Agency. The $460 million probe, launched on a Russian rocket launcher from the Plesestk cosmodrome, will measure soil moisture, plant growth, and ocean salt levels across the globe.

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The measurements gathered by the SMOS probe can be used to track ocean circulation patterns and soil moisture — data that can be used to quickly predict drought and flood risk in certain areas, as well as the intricacies of the planet’s climate cycle. Over the next 3-5 years, SMOS’s data will be collected by a device dubbed MIRAS, or the large Microwave Imaging Radiometer with Aperture Synthesis.

Hopefully, the SMOS satellite will fare better than NASA’s carbon dioxide-mapping satellite, which crashed to Earth shortly after launching earlier this year. Next up for the European Space Agency: the launch of Proba-2, a satellite being launched to show off new lithium-ion batteries, solar panels, micro-cameras, and GPS receivers.

Check out more info on SMOS in the video below.

Via UK Daily Mail