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A US-European oceanography satellite mission to monitor global sea level rise successful launched on 17 January 2016 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
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 (EUMETSAT). It will secure the continuity of the unique climate data record of the mean sea level initiated by Topex-Poseidon in 1992 and continued by Jason-1 and Jason-2.
Jason-3 begins 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.
“Jason-3 will take the pulse of our changing planet by gathering environmental intelligence from the world’s oceans,” said Stephen Volz, assistant administrator for NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service.
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 is a prime example of how our nation leverages NASA’s expertise in space and scientific exploration to help address critical global challenges in collaboration with NOAA and our international partners,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The measurements from Jason-3 will advance our efforts to understand Earth as an integrated system by increasing our knowledge of sea level changes and the ocean’s roles in climate.”
Understanding Sea Level Rises and Global Climate Change
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.
“As human-caused global warming drives sea levels higher and higher, we are literally reshaping the surface of our planet,” said Josh Willis, NASA project scientist for Jason-3 at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “These missions tell us how much and how fast.”
Data from Jason-3 will be used for other scientific, commercial and operational applications, including modeling of deep-ocean waves; forecasts of surface waves for offshore operators; forecasts of tides and currents for commercial shipping and ship routing; coastal forecasts to respond to environmental challenges such as oil spills and harmful algal blooms; coastal modeling crucial for marine mammal and coral reef research; and forecasts of El Nino and La Nina events.