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article imageJoint mission will launch 2 satellites to track rising sea levels

By Karen Graham     Jan 12, 2020 in Science
One of the clear signs of climate change is rising ocean levels. Now a joint mission involving the US and Europe is launching a pair of satellites starting in November 2020, to provide more detailed information about rising sea levels.
There is more to rising ocean levels than melting glaciers and ice sheets. Ocean level rises are also caused by the warming of the atmosphere. Where forests are carbon sinks, absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, oceans are like heat sinks because of the way they absorb the heat from the atmosphere.
With our climate changing and the Earth warming, it is vital that we understand the effects of those changes on our future. So, for the first time, U.S and European space agencies are preparing to launch a 10-year satellite mission to continue to study the clearest sign of global warming - rising sea levels.
The joint Sentinel-6/Jason-CS mission (short for Jason-Continuity of Service), will be the longest-running mission dedicated to answering the question: How much will Earth’s oceans rise by 2030?
The Jason-CS/Sentinel-6 mission that will track sea level rise  one of the clearest signs of global ...
The Jason-CS/Sentinel-6 mission that will track sea level rise, one of the clearest signs of global warming, for the next 10 years. Sentinel-6A, the first of the mission's two satellites, is shown in its clean room in Germany and is scheduled to launch in November 2020.
New information gleaned from the 10-year mission will provide the most sensitive water level measurements as it reveals details about rising oceans, helping to build on nearly 40 years of sea-level records. The new mission will follow in the footsteps of three previous missions - TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1, Ocean Surface Topography/Jason-2, and Jason-3.
The previous missions, spanning a period of 30 years have revealed that Earth's oceans rose by an average of 0.1 inches (3 millimeters) a year in the 1990s, increasing to 0.13 inches (3.4 mm) a year today.
Sentinel-6A and Sentinel-6B
The identical satellites, Jason-6A and Jason-6B will be launched five years apart. They both have a lifespan of seven years, so the thinking is they will overlap on their data collection. They’re built by German company IABG and will be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in the US on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
The SENTINEL-1 mission is the European Radar Observatory for the Copernicus joint initiative of the ...
The SENTINEL-1 mission is the European Radar Observatory for the Copernicus joint initiative of the European Commission (EC) and the European Space Agency (ESA).
"Global sea level is, in a way, the most complete measure of how humans are changing the climate," Josh Willis, the mission's project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement.
"If you think about it, global sea-level rise means that 70 percent of the Earth's surface is getting taller—70 percent of the planet is changing its shape and growing. So it's the whole planet changing. That's what we're really measuring," Willis said.
But that is not all the Sentinel-6/Jason-CS mission will accomplish. According to the ESA, the mission will also provide datasets for other user groups, from climate monitoring for weather forecasts to marine meteorology to coastal altimetry and modeling. As with its predecessors, the new satellites will transmit their data every 10 days.
"Global sea-level rise is one of the most expensive and disruptive impacts of climate change that there is," said Willis. "In our lifetimes, we're not going to see global sea-level fall by a meaningful amount. We're literally charting how much sea level rise we're going have to deal with for the next several generations."
More about JasonCSSentinel6 Mission, rising ocean levels, NASA, Esa, Climate change
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