Monday, January 18, 2016

Jason-3 Launches to Monitor Global Sea Level Rise

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the U.S.-European Jason-3 satellite launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 4 East on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016. Jason-3, an international mission with NASA participation, will continue a 23-year record of monitoring global sea level rise. (Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)  Click to Enlarge.
Jason-3, a U.S.-European oceanography satellite mission with NASA participation that will continue a nearly quarter-century record of tracking global sea level rise, lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California Sunday at 10:42 a.m. PST (1:42 p.m. EST) aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Jason-3 is an international mission 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.
The mission will improve weather, climate and ocean forecasts, including helping NOAA's National Weather Service and other global weather and environmental forecast agencies more accurately forecast the strength of tropical cyclones.
Jason-3 will begin full science operations after a six-month checkout phase, joining Jason-2, which launched in 2008.  From low-Earth orbit, Jason-3 will precisely measure the height of 95 percent of the world's ice-free ocean every 10 days.

Coordinating orbits and combining measurements from Jason-2 and Jason-3 should allow even more frequent coverage of the global ocean.  Together, the two spacecraft will double global data coverage.  This tandem mission will improve our knowledge of tides in coastal and shallow seas and internal tides in the open ocean, while improving our understanding of ocean currents and eddies.

Measurements of sea-surface height, or ocean-surface topography, reveal the speed and direction of ocean currents and tell scientists how much of the sun's energy is stored by the ocean. Combining ocean current and heat storage data is key to understanding global climate changes.

Since the Topex/Poseidon-Jason satellite missions began in 1992, researchers have observed a total global sea level rise of 2.8 inches (70 millimeters) - an average rate of 0.12 inches (3 millimeters) a year.  Because it is a measure of both ocean warming and loss of land ice, sea level rise is an important indicator of human-caused climate change.

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