Preparing for droughts and bush fires could become easier thanks to new research led by scientists at the Australian National University (ANU).

To get a better indicator of when these devastating threats are likely to hit, and destroy land and life, the scientists looked to space. Using data gathered from multiple satellites they were able to ‘measure water below the Earth’s surface with unprecedented precision, and were able to relate this to drought impacts on the vegetation several months later’.

Siyuan Tian, from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences, said the satellites allowed for the detection of “variations in water availability that affect the growth and condition of grazing land, dryland crops and forests, and that can lead to increased fire risk and farming problems several months down the track”.

“This new approach – by looking down from space and underground – opens up possibilities to prepare for drought with greater certainty. It will increase the amount of time available to manage the dire impacts of drought, such as bushfires and livestock losses,” added Dr Paul Tregoning from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences.