Image of an artist's impression of the Topex/Poseidon ocean-observing satellite launched in 1992

An artist's impression of the Topex/Poseidon ocean-observing satellite launched in 1992

Climate change view clearer with new oceans satellite

Reference: 07/36

Australian scientists will have access to the most detailed measurements of ocean circulation and global sea level variations following the launch next year of a multinational ocean-observing satellite – Jason-2.

  • 12 March 2007

“The success of next year’s launch will be critical for the maintenance of the global ocean-observing system,” says oceanographer, Dr David Griffin, of CSIRO’s Wealth from Oceans Research Flagship.

“The continuation of the Jason observations is absolutely vital to gaining a better understanding of, and having ability to predict, changes that are occurring in the climate system.”

Dr Griffin, said the satellite’s data are used to study ocean dynamics, with many applications including:

  • Global warming and climate prediction
  • Monitoring of mean sea level
  • El Niño and La Niña events
  • Ocean circulation
  • Tides and waves.

Jason-2 will be the third ocean-observing satellite to be launched by an international partnership – involving: NASA; the French space agency, Centre National d’Etudes Spatiale; and the US’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration  – since TOPEX-Poseidon in 1992.

“The satellite mission – its objectives and potential science achievements – will be discussed at a meeting opening in Hobart today of nearly 200 European, US and Australian scientists. ”

CSIRO has been on the satellite altimetry science project team for nearly 20 years.  Access to data from the first two satellites has revolutionised scientists’ understanding of the Australasian marine environment and lead to a warning that the present-generation climate models may be under-estimating the true rate of change.

Jason-2‘s core instrument, the altimeter, measures variations of sea level with phenomenal accuracy from a range of 800 kilometres above the Earth’s surface, giving scientists vital clues to the internal changes occurring in the ocean.

The satellite mission – its objectives and potential science achievements – will be discussed at a meeting opening in Hobart today of nearly 200 European, US and Australian scientists.

Dr Griffin said ocean and climate science is taking full advantage of new monitoring technologies such as Jason-1 and Jason-2 and the Argo robotic profilers, providing near real-time information on ocean behaviour. “When delivered in near-real time, these data form the basis of operational oceanography – in other words, forecasting ocean currents and temperatures,” he said.

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