Scientists from the U.S. and Europe have a new eye in the sky monitoring the world’s oceans. The Jason-3 satellite, launched on January 17, is the latest satellite to monitor rising sea levels.
Josh Willis, Lead Project Scientist for the Jason-3 mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said rising sea levels were one of the factors that contributed to the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Hundreds of people died and the storm surge devastated gulf coast communities as Katrina became one of the deadliest storms in recent U.S. history.
The rising ocean winds up causing problems when it comes on top of things like storm surges, high tides, and rare events which bring very high sea levels.
Jason-3 collects data by pulsing radar off the ocean surface several thousands of times a second and returns it back to the satellite.
Any material, including water, expands when heated. The Jason-3 satellite measures the height of the sea surface, allowing scientists to calculate how much extra heat is stored in the ocean.
The ocean covers 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, and more than 90 percent of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases ends up in the ocean.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Eric Leuliette said sea levels are an expression of climate change for two reasons.
Data collected from the Jason-3 satellite will help them to continue to monitor the global impacts of rising sea levels, including increased floods.The information collected by the satellite will also help meteorologists better forecast the intensity of big storms such as Hurricane Katrina.
Once the Jason-3 Satellite retires in three to five years, scientists plan to launch another satellite to continue the mission of building a satellite record of sea level rise on Earth.