United States Department of Agriculture
Natural Resources Conservation Service
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National Water and Climate Center


Water and Climate Program
Products and Services Briefing Book

Soil Climate and Analysis Network Initiative (SCAN)

Effective assessment and management of our nation's resources has become more urgent and complex in response to economic, environmental, and legislative pressures. Currently, there is no national network of automated resource data sites collecting this information. Existing networks are limited in scope, vary significantly in the type, quality, and frequency of data that they collect, and are usually very specific to a local need.

The NRCS, as the lead USDA conservation agency, could respond by employing new technologies, procedures, and coordination to provide reliable and timely national soil moisture and soil temperature information and associated meteorological climate observations.

SCAN would provide the resource data required to monitor soil moisture and climate data for major soils, climate, resource, and hydrologic regions, water quality and for assessing crop productivity, air quality, and drought risk. Armed with this data, NRCS can provide enhanced conservation and operational planning assistance. SCAN is envisioned to be a multi-agency network of up to 1000 (or more) new agriculture remote data collection sites and would make extensive use of existing databases and other acquisition networks through climate partnerships.

The USDA World Agriculture Outlook Board (WAOB) has endorsed SCAN's potential, especially in light of the termination of agricultural climate data collection by the National Weather Service. If the USDA's proposal for the National Agricultural Weather Observation Network (NAWON) is funded, SCAN would fill the data gaps that currently exist for USDA policy decisions and other users interested in natural resource management.

National resource management issues for which long term soil/climate information are needed include:
  • Input to global circulation models.
  • To predict, monitor and verify droughts.
  • To develop new soil moisture accounting technology.
  • To accurately identify and monitor critical soil moisture-temperature zones, such as the boundaries between non-arable and arable cropland, for boundary shifts.
  • To monitor and predict changes in crop, range, and woodland productivity in relation to soil moisture-temperature changes.
  • To predict regional shifts in irrigation water requirements which may affect reservoir construction and ground water levels.
  • To predict shifts in wetlands.
  • To predict changes in runoff that affects flooding and flood control structures.
  • To predict how soil erosion patterns will change both positively and negatively as a result of soil moisture and temperature changes and the resulting vegetation changes.
  • To be able to verify and groundtruth satellite and soil moisture model information.
  • To predict the long term sustainability of cropping systems, and watershed health.

The SCAN concept directly supports the current OSTP sponsored, Environmental Monitoring Initiative (EMI) and the Western Governors Drought Council.


Graph of Prarie View, Texas Soil Temperature
[Sellers Lake SM/ST site, Florida]
Sellers Lake SM/ST Site, Florida