New Satellite to Monitor Global Sea-Level Rise
Jason-3, a U.S.-European satellite mission, lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on January 17 to become the latest spacecraft to track the rate of global sea-level rise.
Jason-3 will also help NOAA’s National Weather Service more accurately forecast the strength of tropical cyclones that threaten America’s coasts.
Jason-3 will undergo a six-month phase to test the satellite’s instruments in orbit. Once complete, it will officially begin operations, joining Jason-2, which was launched in 2008.
While flying in a low orbit, 830 miles above the Earth, Jason-3 will use a radar altimeter instrument to monitor 95 percent of the world’s ice-free oceans every 10 days. Since the Topex/Poseidon and Jason satellite missions started in 1992, researchers have observed global sea-level rise occurring at a rate of three mm a year, resulting in a total change of 70 mm — or 2.8 inches — in 23 years.
Dr Stephen Volz, assistant administrator for NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service, which is leading the international mission, says: “Jason-3 will tell us about the heat of the ocean, vital data if a tropical storm or hurricane is tracking into that location. Having up-to-date sea surface temperatures will help NOAA forecasters better determine if a storm may intensify.”
Jason-3 is an international mission, in which NOAA is partnering with NASA, the Centre national d’études spatiales (CNES, the French Space Agency) and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT).
Data from Jason-3 will be used for other scientific, commercial and operational applications, including: deep-ocean and wave modeling, surface wave forecasting for offshore operators; forecasting tides and currents for commercial shipping and ship routing; coastal forecasting for response to environmental challenges, including oil spills and harmful algal blooms; coastal modeling, which is crucial for marine mammal and coral reef research and El Niño and La Niña forecasting.