Washington, May 21 : A joint NASA-French satellite that would track trends in sea level and climate, is undergoing final preparations for a June 15 launch from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base.
This satellite will help scientists better monitor and understand rises in global sea level, study the world's ocean circulation and its links to Earth's climate, and improve weather and climate forecasts.
The mission will extend into the next decade the continuous record of sea-surface height measurements started in 1992 by the NASA-French Space Agency's TOPEX/Poseidon mission and extended by the NASA-French Space Agency Jason 1 mission in 2001.
The satellite will continue monitoring trends in sea-level rise, one of the most important consequences and indicators of global climate change.
Measurements from TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason 1 have shown that mean sea level has risen by about three millimeters (0.12 inches) a year since 1993, twice the rate estimated from tide gauges in the past century.
But 15 years of data are not sufficient to determine long-term trends.
According to OSTM/Jason 2 project scientist Lee-Lueng Fu of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, "OSTM/Jason 2 will help create the first multi-decadal global record for understanding the vital roles of the ocean in climate change."
"Data from the new mission will allow us to continue monitoring global sea-level change, a field of study where current predictive models have a large degree of uncertainty," he added.
Developed and proven through the joint efforts of NASA and the French Space Agency, high-precision ocean altimetry measures the height of the sea surface relative to Earth's center to within about 3.3 centimeters (1.3 inches).
These measurements, also known as ocean surface topography, provide information on the speed and direction of ocean currents.
OSTM/Jason 2 marks the transition of high-precision altimetry data collection to the world's weather and climate forecasting agencies.
Using the new satellite, scientists soon will be able to forecast how ocean circulation will change from one season to the next and how that circulation is linked to climate change and weather patterns.
"What began as an investment by NASA and CNES in research tools for studying the ocean has matured into a proven technique that will now be routinely used by the world's weather and climate agencies to make better forecasts," said Michael Freilich, director of the Earth Science Division in NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
"People in coastal areas will benefit from improved near-real-time data on ocean conditions, while people everywhere will benefit from better seasonal predictions resulting from the increased understanding of Earth system processes enabled by these measurements," he added.