A SpaceX rocket carrying Jason-3, a US-European oceanography satellite mission, lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Sunday. The satellite mission will monitor global sea level rise.
Jason-3 is led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in partnership with NASA, the French space agency CNES, and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, writes NASA in a news release.
The goal of the mission is to “take the pulse of our changing planet by gathering environmental intelligence from the world’s oceans,” says Stephen Volz from the NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service. It should improve weather, climate and ocean forecasts and help weather agencies more accurately forecast the strength of tropical cyclones.
Jason-3, which will measure the height of 95 per cent of the world’s ice-free ocean every 10 days, joins its predecessor Jason-2, which was launched in 2008. Together, the two satellites will double global data coverage and improve our knowledge of the ocean’s roles in climate, explains John Grunsfeld of NASA. For instance, measurements of sea-surface height or ocean-surface topography tell scientists how much of the sun’s energy is stored by the ocean and is key to understanding global climate changes.
Scientists have been using satellite missions since 1992 to monitor global sea level rise. In the past 23 years they have observed a total global sea level rise of 70 millimetres. Sea level rise is an important indicator of human-induced climate change and is both a measure of ocean warming and loss of land ice.
“As human-caused global warming drives sea levels higher and higher, we are literally reshaping the surface of our planet,” explains Josh Willis of NASA. “These missions tell us how much and how fast.”
Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls