Jason-3, a U.S.-European oceanography satellite mission with NASA participation that will continue a nearly quarter-century record of tracking global sea level rise, lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California Jan. 17 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
Jason-3 is an international mission led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in partnership with NASA, the French space agency CNES, and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites.
“Jason-3 will take the pulse of our changing planet by gathering environmental intelligence from the world’s oceans,” said Stephen Volz, assistant administrator for NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service.
The mission will improve weather, climate and ocean forecasts, including helping NOAA’s National Weather Service and other global weather and environmental forecast agencies more accurately forecast the strength of tropical cyclones.
“Jason-3 is a prime example of how our nation leverages NASA’s expertise in space and scientific exploration to help address critical global challenges in collaboration with NOAA and our international partners,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The measurements from Jason-3 will advance our efforts to understand Earth as an integrated system by increasing our knowledge of sea level changes and the ocean’s roles in climate.”
Minutes after Jason-3 separated from the rocket’s second stage, the spacecraft unfolded its twin sets of solar arrays. Ground controllers successfully acquired the spacecraft’s signals, and initial telemetry reports showed the satellite was in good health.
Measurements of sea-surface height, or ocean-surface topography, reveal the speed and direction of ocean currents and tell scientists how much of the sun’s energy is stored by the ocean. Combining ocean current and heat storage data is key to understanding global climate changes.
Since the Topex/Poseidon-Jason satellite missions began in 1992, researchers have observed a total global sea level rise of 2.8 inches (70 millimeters) – an average rate of 0.12 inches (3 millimeters) a year. Because it is a measure of both ocean warming and loss of land ice, sea level rise is an important indicator of human-caused climate change.
“As human-caused global warming drives sea levels higher and higher, we are literally reshaping the surface of our planet,” said Josh Willis, NASA project scientist for Jason-3 at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “These missions tell us how much and how fast.”
For more information about the Jason-3 mission, visit nesdis.noaa.gov/jason-3.