The French space agency (CNES) announces that it will begin using data from the European Space Agency's (ESA) CryoSat satellite to provide the international maritime community with nearly real-time data of the world's oceans and their current state.
Though this is not its primary mission, the spacecraft is capable of measuring the height of waves, as well as the overall level of the seas. What this implies is that the satellite can also observe and track sea-surface currents around the world.
Sudden changes in sea height or currents may be indicative of adverse weather events that could significantly affect maritime traffic and commerce. This can all be avoided if ship captains have access to the necessary warnings in time.
In addition, CryoSat data can also be used to protect ocean environments. The satellite's main mission is to observe the ice fields covering Greenland and Antarctica, the way they evolve over time, and also to figure out any potential factors that may affect them.
However, its onboard radar altimeter makes it well-equipped to study sea levels, too. CNES experts want to combine readings collected by the spacecraft with models from the MyOcean project. This will enable them to improve the quality of the model forecasts.
“This achievement is the result of the long-standing collaboration and partnership between ESA and CNES. Ocean topography is an important key environmental parameter to understand how ocean circulation responds to climate change,” CryoSat mission manager Tommaso Parrinello explains.
“Through a fusion of processors derived from operational altimeters and experimental software developed specifically for CryoSat’s innovative instrument, CNES experts will be able to transform raw ocean data flows from CryoSat into a quasi-operational end-user ocean product of high quality,” he adds.
The MyOcean project – which is developing marine monitoring services – is part of the ESA Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) program, which will also include the Sentinel satellite constellation in the near future.
CryoSat datasets could contribute to improving shipping routes (and therefore reducing the amount of fuel ships use), observe the topography of the ocean, as well as model its main currents.