Watching Our Oceans

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Watching Our Oceans
05.20.08
 
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Parag Vaze, OSTM/Jason 2 Project Manager:
As most people know the majority of the Earth is covered by the oceans. They store a majority of heat that we get, and in that respect, interact with the climate.

Shannon Brown, OSTM/Jason 2 Scientist
The ocean is a big sink for heat. It can absorb heat from the atmosphere. So if we continue to warm the atmosphere through increasing carbon dioxide or other factors, the ocean will absorb that heat and store it and it can store up to eighty percent of that heat. But the question is—Will it keep doing that in the future?

The Ocean Surface Topography Mission is important because it provides a view of the changing climate. It monitors the consequences of global climate change and global warming, by monitoring sea level rise.

Lee Leung Fu, OSTM/Jason 2 Project Scientist
Half the world's population lives within 100 kilometers from the coast. Sea level is rising at 3 millimeters per year. The ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland--each has the capacity of raising sea level by meters.

Shannon Brown, OSTM/Jason 2 Scientist
It’s measuring the height of the ocean surface to a few inches from 800 miles above the surface of the Earth. Imagine my hand here is the spacecraft and this ball the pulse of radar energy that it sends to the surface. What it does is it measures the amount of time for it to come back.

If the ocean surface is lower, which is represented by this lower step here, it takes a longer amount of time to come back, than if it were higher.

The radar altimeter sends a pulse of microwave energy down to the surface and measures the amount of time it takes to get back. It continues the measurements that were started in 1992 by Topex/Poseidon, and continued with the Jason 1 satellite, and now we have the OSTM, which is going to continue the record into the future. It will help us answer questions like, is sea level rise going to accelerate?

Parag Vaze, OSTM/Jason 2 Project Manager:
OSTM is going to be able to provide key information to understanding, predicting and tracking hurricanes. It's going to be able to provide us the same kind of information for oil rigs, for shipping, for fisheries management, and those are some of the very practical applications besides the long term monitoring of climate, to really give us day to day applications, where we'll be able to improve our weather forecasting. › View Now