Towards Operational Oceanography: Jason 2 and Mercator Ocean

EUMETSAT and Thales Alenia Space presented in Cannes the Jason-2 ocean altimetry satellite and Poseidon 3 dual frequency altimeter scheduled for launch in June 2008. Jason-2 will provide a vital contribution to the expanding network of global ocean observations and their application in meteorology, operational oceanography and climate monitoring. The ocean altimetry programme represents EUMETSAT’s first engagement in the area of operational oceanography. The organization is to assume a leading role with NOAA in the post Jason-2 mission, serving the GMES Marine Core Services.

Ocean altimetry is important for Nowcasting and very short range forecasting as well as for long-term maritime weather forecasts. Maritime weather forecasts rely on accurate measurements from space which have reduced the error in wave height forecasts over the first two hours. Upper ocean thermal structures are a key factor in the development of storms that can threaten shipping and offshore industries and therefore need close monitoring. The mapping and modeling of the upper ocean – coupled with that of the atmosphere – play a central role for longer and medium-range and seasonal timescales.

Latest observations have revealed a mean increase in sea level of approximately 3 mm/year – an incontrovertible indicator of global warming. To better understand this phenomenon and to predict seasonal anomalies in weather patterns, Jason-2 will gather continuous high precision ocean altimetry measurements on a long term basis, providing accurate information of the mean sea level and wave heights.

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Three-dimensional oceanographic prevision at global scale became most recently reality with the new Mercator Ocean System: This system has been developed by the French Public Interest Group (GIP) Mercator Ocean in the frame of a project started in 1995. The Mercator Ocean system is an outstanding contribution to oceanographic prevision as it has never been reached before, integrating satellite and in-situ data. Mercator Ocean at global scale, together with its different European partners at regional scale, is clearly demonstrating the capability to deliver an operational system thanks to the mature technologies as contribution to the European GMES initiative.

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