Nasa mission will give unprecedented view of Earth’s surface water | Nasa


A NASA-led international satellite mission was scheduled to launch from Southern California early Thursday as part of a major Earth science project to conduct a comprehensive survey of the world’s oceans, lakes and rivers for the first time.

The advanced radar satellite, called Swot, short for “surface water and ocean topography”, is designed to give scientists an unprecedented view of the life-giving fluid that covers 70% of the planet, shedding new light on the mechanics and consequences of climate change.

A Falcon 9 rocket, owned and operated by SpaceX, the commercial launch company of billionaire Elon Musk, was scheduled to take off before dawn on Thursday from the U.S. Vandenberg Space Force Base, about 170 miles northwest of Los Angeles, to carry Swot. in orbit around the Earth.

If all goes according to plan, the SUV-sized satellite will provide survey data within months.

Swot has been in development for nearly 20 years and includes advanced microwave radar technology that scientists say will collect elevation-surface measurements of oceans, lakes, reservoirs and rivers in high-definition detail over 90% of the world.

“It’s really the first mission to observe almost all of the water on the Earth’s surface,” said Ben Hamlington, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) who also leads NASA’s sea-level change team.

A key part of the mission is to study how oceans absorb atmospheric heat and carbon dioxide in a natural process that moderates global temperatures and climate change.

Swot scans the seas from orbit and is designed to accurately measure fine differences in surface heights around smaller currents and eddies, where much of the heat and carbon uptake by the oceans is believed to occur. And Swot can do this with 10 times greater resolution than existing technologies, according to the JPL.

Oceans are estimated to have absorbed more than 90% of the excess heat trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere from human-made greenhouse gas emissions.

Studying the mechanism by which that happens will help climate scientists answer an important question: “What is the turning point at which oceans begin to release rather than absorb massive amounts of heat back into the atmosphere and accelerate global warming instead? of these,” said Nadya Vinogradova Shiffer, Swot’s program scientist at NASA in Washington.

Swot’s ability to distinguish smaller surface features can also be used to study the impact of rising ocean levels on coastlines.

More precise data along intertidal zones could help predict how far storm surges can penetrate inland, as well as the extent to which saltwater intrudes into estuaries, wetlands and subsurface aquifers.

By repeatedly taking inventory of Earth’s water resources during Swot’s three-year mission, researchers can better track fluctuations in the planet’s rivers and lakes during seasonal changes and major weather events.

Nasa’s SWOT freshwater science chief, Tamlin Pavelsky, said collecting such data is akin to “recording the heartbeat of the world’s water system so we can see when it’s racing and we’ll be able to see when it’s slow.”

Swot’s radar instrument operates at the so-called Ka-band frequency of the microwave spectrum, allowing scans to penetrate cloud cover and darkness over broad areas of the Earth. This allows scientists to accurately map their observations in two dimensions, regardless of the weather or time of day, and to cover large geographic areas much faster than previously possible.

By comparison, previous studies of bodies of water have relied on data collected at specific points, such as river or ocean gauges, or from satellites that can only track measurements along a one-dimensional line, forcing scientists to fill data gaps through extrapolation.

“Instead of giving us a line of elevation changes, it gives us a map of elevation changes, and that’s just a total game changer,” said Pavelsky.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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