Decades of Discovery How altimeters help us every day

Launched in 1992, the Topex/Poseidon satellite ushered in a new era of earth studies. Its primary instrument was an "altimeter" ("high" - "measure").

Topex/Poseidon provided the first highly accurate, global measurements of sea level. This pioneering US/France collaboration has had three successors – all named Jason.

How can altimeters help us better understand our planet, now and in the future?

Measure sea surface height over the globe...
... providing a continuous view of change over time.
Calculate the transport of heat, water, nutrients, and salt by the ocean.

Map ocean currents and how they change over seasons, years, and decades.

Help marine weather studies by providing data on ocean wave heights and wind speeds.

Improve our knowledge of tides in the open ocean.

Better forecast climate events such as El Niño.
Monitor global mean sea level change.
Detect water vapor in the atmosphere...
...and liquid water in clouds over the ocean.
Support weather forecasts by measuring the temperature and humidity of the atmosphere.

What's next?

Jason-CS/Sentinel-6 includes two satellites scheduled to launch in 2020 and 2025, extending critical global data records beyond three decades.

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