Jason-3 satellite produces its first global sea surface height map
Datacollected by the Jason-3 satellite, which was launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in January this year, has been used to create theprobe's very first complete science map of global sea surface height.Currently at the beginning of its operational life, the satellitewill be used to track climate change, and enable more accurate oceanand weather forecasting.
Thenew height map was constructed from data gathered in the first 10days of the Jason-3's operational life, at an altitude of 830 miles(1,336 km). It shows globalsea height levels, as collected by the satellite's radar altimeter,and details the ongoing El Niñoevent, with sea levels peaking in January this year.
Sincebeing placed in orbit at the beginning of the year, Jason-3's systemsand instruments have been tested thoroughly by mission controllers,and the satellite has been placed successfully in its operationalorbit. The probe is in the same orbit as itspredecessor – Jason-2 –with the two satellites placed 80 secondsapart. Over the coming months, the two probes will work together tomake the same observations, ensuring that the newer satellite'sinstruments are properly calibrated.
Oncethat calibration phase is complete, Jason-3 will set about preciselyand continuously measuring the height of 95 percent of the world'sice-free ocean, completing a full data set every 10 days.
Atthat stage, Jason-2 will be moved into a different orbit, helping theprogram cover more ground, while improving data accuracy for bothmissions. Overall, the two missions will work together to track ocean surface height, while greatlyexpanding our understanding of ocean currents and eddies across theplanet.
"Jason-3has big shoes to fill," says NASA project scientist Josh Willis."By measuring the changing levels of the ocean, Jason-2 and itspredecessors have built one of the clearest records we have of ourchanging climate."