Data collected by the Jason-3 satellite, which was launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in January this year, has been used to create the probe's very first complete science map of global sea surface height. Currently at the beginning of its operational life, the satellite will be used to track climate change, and enable more accurate ocean and weather forecasting.

The new height map was constructed from data gathered in the first 10 days of the Jason-3's operational life, at an altitude of 830 miles (1,336 km). It shows global sea height levels, as collected by the satellite's radar altimeter, and details the ongoing El Niño event, with sea levels peaking in January this year.

Since being placed in orbit at the beginning of the year, Jason-3's systems and instruments have been tested thoroughly by mission controllers, and the satellite has been placed successfully in its operational orbit. The probe is in the same orbit as its predecessor – Jason-2 –with the two satellites placed 80 seconds apart. Over the coming months, the two probes will work together to make the same observations, ensuring that the newer satellite's instruments are properly calibrated.

Once that calibration phase is complete, Jason-3 will set about precisely and continuously measuring the height of 95 percent of the world's ice-free ocean, completing a full data set every 10 days.

At that stage, Jason-2 will be moved into a different orbit, helping the program cover more ground, while improving data accuracy for both missions. Overall, the two missions will work together to track ocean surface height, while greatly expanding our understanding of ocean currents and eddies across the planet.

"Jason-3 has big shoes to fill," says NASA project scientist Josh Willis. "By measuring the changing levels of the ocean, Jason-2 and its predecessors have built one of the clearest records we have of our changing climate."

Source: NASA

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