Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Keeping an eye on the oceans

European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT): In the last ten years, scientists have set up a global observing system to monitor the world’s oceans. The observation system works by combining satellite observations with data from in-water recording devices such as buoys, tide gauges and an array of more than 3000 Argo robots.

….EUMETSAT's role in ocean observations is to establish, maintain and use European systems of operational meteorological satellites, contribute to the operational monitoring of the climate and the oceans - for instance monitoring sea level rise with the Jason 2 altimetry satellite - and establish new ocean-monitoring missions, such as Jason 3.

….All this data from the in-water samplers – so called in situ data - provides the detail on conditions in specific locations, but for the big picture of what is happening in the oceans, scientists are relying on satellites. One of the key tools in understanding issues such as global sea level rise is the [Internal link]Jason 2 satellite, operated by EUMETSAT, whose onboard altimeter scans the world’s oceans, recording global sea level to the nearest cm. When this information is combined with information from satellite-based gravity measurements, tide gauges, Argo floats and other devices, it gives scientists the ability to precisely monitor global sea levels. Satellites are also monitoring a host of other ocean variables - from sea surface temperature, to wind, ocean colour and sea ice cover.

...[T]he benefits that an operational ocean observing system will bring … are an extremely strong justification: the system is already providing data for the International Panel on Climate Change assessments, and it will also provide better data for maritime security, oil spill prevention, management of marine resources, marine meteorology, seasonal and long term weather forecasting, coastal activities, and monitoring of water quality.

The Jason 2 satellite, an important part of the EUMETSAT system

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