Follow this link to skip to                                      the main content

Text Size

Topex/Poseidon Audio Clips
Audio clips with: Dr. Bill Patzert, oceanographer with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and Mark Fujishin, also of JPL, Project Manager for the Topex/Poseidon mission.

They discuss the legacy of Topex/Poseidon, an Earth-observing mission that has concluded a 13-year stint measuring changes in sea surface height and heat storage in oceans. Data on these ocean changes have helped Patzert and other scientists figure out what's happening with the climate, and how it affects weather patterns around the world. Topex/Poseidon was originally planned as a three-year mission. Those three years stretched into a very productive 13 years for the hardy satellite. Its mission ended in December 2005, when the satellite's pointing instruments finally stopped functioning. Through the years, science and industry used Topex/Poseidon data for such activities as climate forecasting, ocean research, ship routing, offshore industries, fisheries management and marine mammals research.

More information on Topex/Poseidon, Jason and the Ocean Surface Topography Mission, with a planned launch in 2008: . Full NASA podcast on Topex-Poseidon:

CUT 1 – Dr. Bill Patzert says there were many highlights for Topex/Poseidon, but one in particular stands out—the El Nino of 1997-98. El Nino ocean temperature data were featured in colorful Topex/Poseidon maps of the globe seen in the media, with the oceans depicted as splotches of purple, green and yellow.
+ Play cut 1 (MP3)
Running time: 21
Transcript of CUT 1:
"The great event that really put Topex/Poseidon in the public eye was the great El Nino of 1997, 1998, and these were profound shifts in the heat content in the ocean and of course in the global climate. There wasn't anybody on the planet that wasn't touched by this El Nino."

CUT 2 – Dr. Bill Patzert says Topex/Poseidon sailed around Earth 62,000 times, with its high-tech instruments trained on the churning seas below. The satellite mapped the heights of sea surfaces around the globe. Higher levels indicate the oceans are warmer. The instruments watched as the vast oceans stored heat and moved it around the globe.
+ Play cut 2 (MP3)
Running time: :20
Transcript of CUT 2:
"Which is really the key to changes in climate. Which continents will be dry, which will be wet, some places will be warmer, some places will be cooler. So for the first time we were seeing a direct relationship between climate and weather and changes in the global ocean."

CUT 3 -- Topex/Poseidon has witnessed dramatic changes over the past 13 years. Patzert and his colleagues are not sure yet what to make of the changes. Because the instruments measured sea surface height, Topex/Poseidon was also able to track the level of the oceans overall. Researchers are scouring the data and historical records to see whether these changes are part of an ongoing pattern, or really something new and dramatic.
+ Play cut 3 (MP3)
Running time: :30
Transcript of CUT 3:
"Over the last 13 yrs, global sea level has risen almost an inch and a half. It doesn't seem like much, but over the past century, this is almost 10 inches of global sea level rise, and so it's really a preview of coming attractions for the planet. It's really the canary in the coal mine. The planet is warming and the sea level is rising."

CUT 4 -- Topex/Poseidon's long-lived adventure officially ended in December 2005, after the satellite's pointing instruments finally stopped functioning. The craft will remain in orbit, but can no longer send back data. Dr. Bill Patzert says a mission named Jason, launched in December 2001, will carry on where Topex/Poseidon leaves off. + Play cut 4 (MP3)
Running time: :37
Transcript of CUT 4
"A smaller, less expensive clone named Jason, again a US-french joint mission, was launched, and they've been flying together now for almost 3 years which has provided an entirely new insight. Topex/Poseidon paved the way, Jason will continue to carry the banner, and as we look into the new century and the new millennium, we hope to have a continuous series of these altimetric satellites monitoring not only the oceans but providing the tools for climate forecasting."

CUT 5 – Topex-Poseidon Project Manager Mark Fujishin says there's growing awareness among people of how crucial it is to understand climate patterns.
+ Play cut 5 (MP3)
Running time: :30
Transcript of CUT 5:
"People are always more aware of things when it affects them in their own backyard, and because of the string of storms and hurricanes that have plagued the United States over the past year, people are much more aware of the tools that weather and climate folks use to detect short and long term weather patterns. And so this allows us of course to understand these phenomena greater, better, and make better predictions."

CUT 6 – Natural sound of Topex-Poseidon launch on August 10, 1992, from Kourou, French Guyana. Includes countdown in French and rocket sound.
+ Play cut 6 (MP3)
Running time: :32