After a six-month trial phase, the new European-American ocean-monitoring satellite Sentinel 6 Michael Freilich began delivering ultra-precise readings of rising sea levels on Earth.
FREMONT, CA: The waters are warming and rising as the world's climate changes. For three decades, scientists have relied on eyes in the sky to keep an eye on the oceans: satellites that closely track how seas behave worldwide. However, sentinel 6 Michael Freilich, the most recent of these satellites, has only recently begun to transmit data.
Last November, the spacecraft named after NASA climate scientist Michael Freilich took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Sentinel 6 will eventually provide scientists with more accurate data on ocean surfaces than its predecessors, down to a few centimeters. As a result, meteorologists will better watch weather patterns such as forming storms and properly monitor increasing sea levels.
Sentinel-6, which is part of the European Union's Copernicus Earth monitoring program, is now 30 seconds behind Jason-3 in their orbits at the height of 830 miles (1,336 kilometers). At regular intervals, the two satellites monitor 90 percent of the world's oceans. Before Sentinel-6 takes over from Jason-3 as the primary sea level monitoring craft, scientists analyze data from the two spacecraft to confirm that it is up to the task.
The upgraded altimeter, known as Poseidon-4, is Sentinel-6's significant advancement over its predecessor. Poseidon-4 uses synthetic aperture radar (SAR) technology to provide more exact readings than traditional radar altimeters by analyzing the Doppler effect of the radar signal as it bounces off the sea surface and returns to the spacecraft.
The global weather forecasting community now has access to two streams of Sentinel 6 data, which provide information on sea surface height with accuracies of 2.3 inches (5.8 cm) and 1.4 inches (3.5 cm), respectively. When the initial data stream is acquired, it is immediately available. After additional processing, the second will get issued two days later. NASA and ESA said in their announcements that even more exact data sets, accurate to 1.2 inches (2.9 cm), will be supplied to climate researchers later this year.
Sentinel-6 isn't the first of its sort, and it won't be the last. Sentinel-6B, a twin spacecraft, is set to launch in 2025. In the fourth decade of satellite measurements, the two Sentinel-6 satellites will ensure that scientists continue to receive the most reliable data on sea levels. Such information is particularly essential as global sea-level rise accelerates due to climate change, a trend that scientists have been observing for the past three decades and expected to continue.