SpaceX launches US-European satellite to measure sea levels with unprecedented accuracy

Joint NASA-ESA Satellite Which Will Monitor Sea Levels to Launch Saturday

"So in high tides we've been seeing more flooding as the levels have been rising", NOAA's Sentinel-6 program scientist told PIX11 News.

The satellite is required to dispatch Saturday (Nov. 21) at 12:17 p.m. EST (9:17 a.m. nearby time and 1717 GMT) Space Launch Complex 4 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, on a five-year journey to plan ocean rise related with a unsafe atmospheric devation.

The spacecraft's main instrument is a radar altimeter provided by ESA, which bounces radio pulses off the ocean to measure sea level as well as wave height and ocean speed.

The measurements are also important for understanding overall sea level rise due to global warming that scientists warn is a risk to the world's coastlines and billions of people.

Sentinel-6 has higher metering accuracy, which means it can track both large features, such as the Gulf Stream, as well as smaller features like shoreline differences. For instance, the altimetry accumulated from Sentinel-6 could be joined with Earth's gravity estimations from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites. NASA held two press conferences on Friday to discuss the impact of the new mission on current maps and models.

Almost 800 million people live within five metres of sea level, and even an increase in sea level of a few centimetres can translate into vastly more damage from high tides and storm surges.

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It is named after the late director of NASA's Earth Science Division, Michael Freilich, an oceanographer who was instrumental in getting the USA space agency to join the mission.

The benefits of Sentinel-6's data will flow to every sector affected by climate change, as 90% of the heat trapped by man-made greenhouse gases will eventually end up in the ocean, said NASA's Sentinel-6 project scientist Josh Willis. "I want to congratulate everyone who made this mission a success and take a moment to remember the late Dr. Michael Freilich, the former NASA Earth Science Division Director, who was a tireless advocate for advancing satellite measurements of the ocean".

The information will be analysed by the UK's climate and ocean experts, including those from the Met Office and National Oceanography Centre, to help predict what global sea levels might look like in the future.

Coastlines are also changing in response to sea level rise induced by climate change. Melting glaciers and ice sheets account for the majority of the transformation.

In this Thursday, May 30, 2013 file photo Michael Freilich, director of NASA's earth science division, center, signs a ceremonial document turning over operational control of the Landsat 8 satellite to the U.S. Geological Survey at the USGS EROS Center north of Sioux Falls.

"We're united by this big goal", said Nadya Vinogradova Shiffer, the NASA programme manager who oversees the team. That energy is transferred into Earth's atmosphere only later.

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