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News Article | January 17, 2016
Site: phys.org

However, the primary mission of the launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California went as planned, propelling into orbit a $180 million US-French satellite called Jason-3 to study sea level rise. "Well, at least the pieces were bigger this time!" Elon Musk, the CEO of the California-based company, wrote on Twitter. SpaceX is trying to land its rockets back on Earth in order to re-use the parts in the future, trying to make spaceflight cheaper and more sustainable than before. The firm succeeded in landing its Falcon 9 first stage—the long towering portion of the rocket—on solid ground at Cape Canaveral, Florida in December. Even though an ocean landing is more difficult, SpaceX wants to perfect the technique because ship landings "are needed for high velocity missions," Musk tweeted. "Definitely harder to land on a ship," he added after the latest foible. "Similar to an aircraft carrier vs land: much smaller target area, that's also translating and rotating." Currently, expensive rocket components are jettisoned into the ocean after launch, wasting hundreds of millions of dollars. Competitor Blue Origin, headed by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, succeeded in landing a suborbital rocket in November. However, no other company has attempted the ocean landing that SpaceX is trying to achieve. In the end, the problem on Sunday was not due to high speed or a turbulent ocean, but came down to a leg on the rocket that did not lock out as anticipated. "So it tipped over after landing," Musk said. SpaceX said the rocket landed within 1.3 meters (yards) of the droneship's center. There was no hitch in the launch itself, and the blast off at 10:42 am (1842 GMT) of the rocket and satellite went flawlessly. The satellite aims to offer a more precise look at how global warming and sea level rise affect wind speeds and currents as close as 0.6 miles (one kilometer) from shore, whereas past satellites were limited to about 10 times that distance from the coast. The technology will monitor global sea surface heights, tropical cyclones and help support seasonal and coastal forecasts. During a five-year mission, its data will also be used to aid fisheries management and research into human impacts on the world's oceans. The satellite is the fruit of a four-way partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the US space agency NASA, the French space agency CNES (Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales) and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT). Explore further: SpaceX launches satellite, but fails to land rocket on barge

News Article | November 18, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Slow moving frontal systems draped over Hispaniola and a tropical wave recently caused heavy rainfall that led to wide spread flooding over the northern Dominican Republic. NASA analyzed that heavy rainfall using data from satellites. Scattered to numerous showers and scattered thunderstorms have occurred over Hispaniola during the week of Nov. 14. Hispaniola includes the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The Global Precipitation Measurement mission or GPM core satellite can analyze rainfall rates from space. GPM is a joint mission between NASA and the Japanese space agency JAXA. NASA's Integrated Multi-satellite Retrievals for GPM (IMERG) were used to estimate totals for rainfall that fell over the Dominican Republic during the period from Nov. 8 to 15, 2016. IMERG data indicates that rainfall totals of greater than 230 mm (9 inches) fell over the northeastern Dominican Republic during this period. Estimates of real-time IMERG rainfall totals have been adjusted to reflect observed values in similar extreme events. The Integrated Multi-satellitE Retrievals for GPM (IMERG) creates a merged precipitation product from the GPM constellation of satellites. These satellites include DMSPs from the U.S. Department of Defense, GCOM-W from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Megha-Tropiques from the Centre National D'etudies Spatiales (CNES) and Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), NOAA series from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Suomi-NPP from NOAA-NASA, and MetOps from the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT). All of the instruments (radiometers) onboard the constellation partners are inter-calibrated with information from the GPM Core Observatory's GPM Microwave Imager (GMI) and Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar (DPR). On Nov. 18, the National Hurricane Center discussion noted "A stationary front extends from the west-central Atlantic near 20 degrees north latitude and 70 degrees west longitude, then along the north coast of the island to the Windward Passage continuing over the west Caribbean. A surface trough (elongated area of low pressure) is just south of the Mona Passage and coupled with the frontal boundary are generating scattered showers possible isolated thunderstorms over the Dominican Republic this morning. This front will lie across the north portion of the island through Saturday, and coupled with the surface trough moving through the central Caribbean will give the island scattered showers and possible isolated thunderstorms spreading west across the island today and will persist through Saturday." For information from the National Weather Service of Puerto Rico on how that system is affecting the region, go to: http://www. In addition to that system, a broad area of low pressure designated as System 90L in the southwestern Caribbean is also being monitored for possible tropical cyclone development by the National Hurricane Center. Very warm sea surface temperatures and upper level winds are expected to provide favorable conditions for tropical cyclone development in that area.

News Article | March 17, 2016
Site: phys.org

The map was generated from the first 10 days of data collected once Jason-3 reached its operational orbit of 1,336 kilometers on Feb. 12. It shows the continuing evolution of the ongoing El Niño event that began early last year. After peaking in January, the high sea levels in the eastern Pacific are now beginning to shrink. Launched Jan. 17 from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base, Jason-3 is operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in partnership with NASA, the French Space Agency Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT). Its nominal three-year mission will continue nearly a quarter-century record of monitoring changes in global sea level. These measurements of ocean surface topography are used by scientists to help calculate the speed and direction of ocean surface currents and to gauge the distribution of solar energy stored in the ocean. Information from Jason-3 will be used to monitor climate change and track phenomena like El Niño. It will also enable more accurate weather, ocean and climate forecasts, including helping global weather and environmental agencies more accurately forecast the strength of tropical cyclones. Jason-3 data will also be used for other scientific, commercial and operational applications, including monitoring of deep-ocean waves; forecasts of surface waves for offshore operators; forecasts of currents for commercial shipping and ship routing; coastal forecasts to respond to environmental challenges like oil spills and harmful algal blooms; coastal modeling crucial for marine mammal and coral reef research. "We are very happy to have been able to deploy so quickly the JASON-3 satellite on its orbit, just behind JASON-2, Gérard Zaouche, CNES project manager said, allowing us to begin the mission product comparison with JASON-2 so easily. "The performances of this new mission are already very promising. Thanks to the good behavior of the instruments, the satellite and all the elements of the system, users will be able to benefit soon from this new high-accuracy mission." That record began with the 1992 launch of the NASA/CNES TOPEX/Poseidon mission (1992-2006) and was continued by Jason-1 (2001-2013); and Jason-2, launched in 2008 and still in operation. Data from Jason-3's predecessor missions show that mean sea level has been rising by about 0.12 inches (3 millimeters) a year since 1993. Over the past several weeks, mission controllers activated and checked out Jason-3's systems, instruments and ground segment, all of which are functioning properly. They also maneuvered Jason-3 into its operational orbit, where it now flies in formation with Jason-2 in the same orbit, approximately 80 seconds apart. The two satellites will make nearly simultaneous measurements over the mission's six-month checkout phase to allow scientists to precisely calibrate Jason-3's instruments. Remko Scharroo, Remote Sensing Scientist at EUMETSAT said. "Jason-3 is continuing the climate data record of sea level change as measured by altimeters going back to 1992. The Jason missions have become the reference for all satellite altimeters. "Until the summer, Jason-2 and Jason-3 overfly the same spot of ocean just 80 seconds apart. This allows us to cross-calibrate those missions with extreme precision of less than one millimeter of sea level, thus ensuring a consistent time series. "With the Sentinel-3 just launched as well, one of our first efforts during the commissioning of the Sentinel-3 SRAL altimeter will be to calibrate it against the Jason-2 and -3 missions. "Taken together, these missions will help us not only to monitor the large-scale changes of the ocean but also those at smaller scales. "The myriad of benefits of Jason-3 include near real-time applications such as hurricane forecasting, monitoring of El Niño, and modeling of ocean currents. And also societal benefits for the long term, such as the monitoring of sea level rise." Once Jason-3 is fully calibrated and validated, it will begin full science operations, precisely measuring the height of 95 percent of the world's ice-free ocean every 10 days and providing oceanographic products to users around the world. Jason-2 will then be moved into a new orbit, with ground tracks that lie halfway between those of Jason-3. This move will double coverage of the global ocean and improve data resolution for both missions. This tandem mission will improve our understanding of ocean currents and eddies and provide better information for forecasting them throughout the global oceans. EUMETSAT, CNES and NOAA will process data from Jason-3, with EUMETSAT being responsible for data services to users of the EUMETSAT and EU Member States, on behalf of the EU Copernicus Programme. Data access in Europe will be secured via the multi-mission infrastructure available at EUMETSAT and CNES, including EUMETSAT's EUMETCast real-time data dissemination system, Earth Observation Portal and archives, as well as the CNES/AVISO data system. Jason-3 is the result of an international partnership between EUMETSAT, the French Space Agency (CNES), the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the European Union, which funds European contributions to Jason-3 operations as part of its Copernicus Programme. Within Copernicus, Jason-3 is the reference mission for cross-calibrating Sentinel-3 observations of sea surface height and the precursor to the future cooperative Sentinel-6/Jason-CS mission also implemented in partnership between Europe and the United States.

News Article | October 31, 2016
Site: www.sciencedaily.com

Serendipity, expertise, foresight and the equivalent of an Earth observation data archaeological dig have led to recovery of almost-40-year-old satellite imagery -- thought lost forever -- which will significantly add to understanding of our planet's climate. The data, from the European Space Agency's prototype Meteosat-1 geostationary meteorological satellite, was found at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Space Science and Engineering Center (SSEC) in the United States. It has now been provided to EUMETSAT, which operates and disseminates data from Meteosat-1's "descendents" and, crucially, has an uninterrupted record of climate data from these satellites stretching back more than 30 years. That record, although with a small gap, now extends even further back in time. To say that the discovery of this lost data was greeted with enthusiasm would be an understatement, with climate scientists describing it as "like finding a lost child" -- "the first born"! Meteosat-1 was launched on 23 November 1977, and was positioned in a geostationary orbit at 0° degrees longitude, with a constant view of most of Europe, all of Africa, the Middle East and part of South America. From that position, this view of the "full-disk" was scanned every 30 minutes, with the data being provided in near-real time to users. The satellite's mission lasted until 25 November 1979. Meteosat-1 represented cutting-edge technology for its time, introducing the concept of a global system of geostationary platforms capable of observing the atmospheric circulation and weather around the equator in near-real time. It was also the first geostationary meteorological satellite to have a water vapour channel, tracking the motion of moisture in the air. The data found in America comprises 20,790 images, from 1 December 1978 to 24 November 1979. On 27 June 2016, EUMETSAT held an event to celebrate its 30th anniversary, in Darmstadt, Germany. Among the guests was Dr Paul Menzel, Senior Scientist with the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies, part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Space Science and Engineering Center. A memento guests at the event received was a memory stick with links to EUMETSAT's climate data record, from 1 January 1984 up until the anniversary in 2016 -- more than 32 years. "It was pointed out that the data was all there, except for two days, which were missing," Dr Menzel said. "That prompted me to have a look whether we had the data for those two days. When I went back, we started looking for the data but I was told we didn't have any Meteosat data from before 1992. I knew that couldn't be right." The SSEC Data Center didn't have the data for the missing two days but did find something even more valuable. In 1978-79, the First GARP (Global Atmospheric Research Programme) Global Experiment (FGGE) was undertaken -- a project reported by New Scientist at the time as the biggest cooperative international venture ever undertaken. Its aim was to find out which gaps in global weather monitoring could be filled to improve weather forecasting seven to 10 days in advance. Meteosat-1 data was provided to the SSEC for this project. The centre's founder, Verner Suomi, often referred to as the "Father of Satellite Meteorology," had the foresight to recognise the importance of preserving Earth observation data. "I thought we must have the FGGE data," Dr Menzel said. "Vern's mentality was, I don't want to lose any of the data." Dr Menzel's colleague, CIMSS Programme Manager Dr David Santek said teams of experts had worked in three shifts around the clock tracking cloud features in the images from the 1,200 nine-track tapes of Meteosat-1 data that was shipped to them for the FGGE project in 1978-79. "Then those tapes sat around for 20 years," Dr Santek said. "In 1997, we started converting data from old tape media on to more modern media. We could not dispose of those old tapes. "From 2001-2004, new nine-track tape drives were acquired to extract most of the data from the tapes and, over the past 15 years, the original data were stored on disk, although, without any attempt to use it. That's why the old data were able to be found. But finding the data was not the end of the story. The files were stored on disk in the original tape format and needed to be decoded. Dan Forrest, SSEC's Senior Systems Engineer, spent several weeks piecing the files together, dug up old documentation, wrote a decoder and was able to retrieve the data, but it was not quite usable. In another serendipitous twist, Dr Santek was the person who wrote some of the original code and he provided modules for navigating and calibrating the data. Why this data is so important The data from Meteosat-1 will help scientists better understand the climate and how it has changed. EUMETSAT Climate Services and Product Manager Dr Jörg Schulz, said the discovery would not only provide a longer time series of climate data but would be reanalysed and reprocessed using the latest methodology. "It gives us information about the state of Earth's atmosphere from a time when there was less interference from human activity," Dr Menzel added. Dr Schulz said this would help further improve understanding of Earth's climate system. "One of the grand challenges in climate science is to better understand atmospheric circulation in general," Dr Schulz said. "Where is the tropical, warm, moist air going? Where is the polar, cool, dry air going? And how does this change over time? "This data will be very important to support the analysis of position, strength and variability of storm tracks as well as circulation-cloud interactions." The three scientists were keen to stress not only the scientific and historical importance of the data but also how this demonstrates the value of strong collaboration and cooperation. "It's another example of the strong collaboration between SSEC and EUMETSAT and I'm very happy to have found those tapes," Dr Menzel said. "A lot of people were involved," Dr Santek added. "It's history and we are able to make it useful, even though it hasn't been looked at for 30 years." "We are excited about the work done at SSEC and look forward to analysing and improving the data in collaboration with SSEC in the coming years," Dr Schulz concluded. You can see an animation made from one day's worth of imagery from Meteosat-1 on the EUMETSAT YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnN0zrMRYAo

News Article | April 20, 2016
Site: phys.org

Following its successful launch and early operations phase, EUMETSAT has been supporting the European Space Agency (ESA) in-orbit commissioning activities, before EUMETSAT takes over routine operations of the spacecraft and processing data at its Sentinel-3 Marine Centre. The Copernicus programme is Europe's response to the challenge of global environment monitoring and climate change. Sentinel-3A will provide systematic measurements of the Earth's oceans, land, ice and atmosphere. It has been described as "the most beautiful satellite ever built" from oceanographers' perspective, with its cutting-edge instruments' ability to provide highly accurate data on the ocean colour, sea surface temperature and sea surface height. These data are crucial for Europe's 500 billion euro a year "blue economy" and will be relied upon by the fishing and aquaculture industries, coastal planners, the marine transport industry, environment and climate scientists and others, in addition to weather and ocean forecasters. The EU has entrusted EUMETSAT to undertake, in cooperation with ESA, routine operations of Sentinel-3A, which was launched on 16 February and is now going through its commissioning phase, and to deliver its marine mission. In addition, EUMETSAT will deliver to Copernicus data from the joint European-US Jason-3 ocean altimetry satellite, which was launched in January this year, as part of an integrated marine data stream, incorporating data from third-party missions of our partners in the US, China and India. Jason-3 will expand until 2021 the unique mean sea-level climate data record, started in 1992 by Topex-Poseidon, and continue to provide the reference ocean surface topography measurements used for cross-calibrating all other altimeter missions, including Sentinel-3, and this data will also soon be available. Sentinel-3A has already delivered impressive first images from its Ocean and Land Colour Instrument, altimeter and Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer and the quality of the products is expected to improve with fine-tuning over the remaining months of the commissioning before EUMETSAT begins routine operations. When Sentinel-3A's marine mission is fully operational, these new, advanced instruments will be sending back to Earth high quality data in vastly increased amounts. EUMETSAT offers users and service providers access to a multi-mission data stream via EUMETCast, a highly-reliable, cost-effective system based on off-the-shelf, commercially available, standard Digital Video Broadcast technology. EUMETCast's highly scalable architecture will provide the near real-time Sentinel-3 data services to an unlimited number of simultaneous users, regardless of the possible limitations of local communication infrastructures. The UK-based European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), which produces and disseminates numerical weather predictions to its 34 Member States and is both a research institute and operational service, receives more than 50 gigabytes of data via EUMETCast in near real time every day. "EUMETCast delivers the majority of the satellite observations operationally assimilated at ECMWF," ECMWF Head of Evaluation Section David Richardson said. "These are important to the quality of the forecasts in all regions and in those parts of the world where non-satellite observations are scarce the forecast skill would fall dramatically without the observations disseminated by EUMETCast. "EUMETCast provides a very reliable, cost-effective and easy to use mechanism for the near real time delivery of more than 50 gigabytes of satellite data every day. It is an essential component of ECMWF's data reception system. "ECMWF is also making use of the EUMETCast service to broadcast essential weather forecast products to over 50 African countries overcoming the lack of network infrastructure available in this area of the world." "The addition of Sentinel-3A data will complement the already existing marine data stream we have available on EUMETCast" EUMETSAT  User Relations Manager Sally Wannop said: "As a single data access mechanism, EUMETCast is the one-stop-shop to a wide range of environmental data. "The addition of Sentinel-3A data will complement the already existing marine data stream we have available on EUMETCast." In addition, EUMETSAT will disseminate the Sentinel-3A data on-line, via itsCopernicus Online Data Access, and to international partners via EUMETCast Terrestrial, which functions like the satellite service but using a terrestrial network instead. The DVB satellite link is replaced by a connection to a national research network. EUMETCast Terrestrial has the potential to reach users beyond the EUMETCast satellite footprint, for example, in Australia. EUMETSAT is already looking at future evolutions of its data services to users. A series of pathfinder projects, involving hosted processing, new data view capabilities, the creation of a format conversation toolbox and online data platforms, for example, are currently being undertaken. Many of the enhancements arising from these projects will also be applied to the Copernicus data.

PARIS, 16-Dec-2016 — /EuropaWire/ — A special briefing on SmallGEO, Europe’s versatile small telecom satellite platform, will be held on 18 January, after Director General Jan Woerner’s annual meeting of the press at ESA HQ, Paris. The SmallGEO platform line offers satellite operators an entirely European solution in the smaller telecom satellite market by speeding up the production and testing processes, reducing costs and broadening the range of design options. SmallGEO will be launched on its first mission in the early hours of 28 January on a Soyuz rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. It is carrying a telecommunications payload by Hispasat, which marks the first partnership between ESA and a Spanish operator, and will provide flight heritage for the first product by Germany’s OHB System AG as a prime contractor. The launch will also be the first time a Soyuz has lifted a telecom satellite of more than three tonnes into geostationary transfer orbit from Kourou. Named Hispasat 36W-1, it will then take itself into geostationary orbit over 36°W, where it will provide flexible broadband coverage over Europe, the Canary Islands and the Americas. It will do so through its innovative Redsat regenerative processor, which offers better signal quality and speed by independently allocating up to four, reconfigurable beams at once, adapting the beams’ strength and location according to demand. Hispasat 36W-1 is the first satellite to use the processor. Future SmallGEO platforms will carry the second node of the EDRS–SpaceDataHighway laser relay and ESA’s pioneering Electra electric propulsion mission. The briefing will be shared by the Director General, the Director of Telecommunications & Integrated Applications, Magali Vaissiere, the Head of Telecommunications Satellite Programmes, Stéphane Lascar, Carlos Espinós, CEO of Hispasat, Marco Fuchs, CEO of OHB System AG, and Gerd Gruppe, Director of Space Administration at the DLR German Aerospace Center. It will be followed by a 20 minute Q&A session. The event will take place 11:30–12:30 CET at ESA headquarters: 8 rue Mario Nikis, 75015 Paris, France. Media representatives wishing to attend are requested to register at https://myconvento.com/public/event_register/index/1535923 The news conference will be livestreamed at www.esa.int. Media and the public may ask questions during the briefing on Twitter using the hashtag #askSmallGEO or by tweeting to @ESA. The European Space Agency (ESA) provides Europe’s gateway to space. ESA is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world. ESA has 22 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Slovenia is an Associate Member. ESA has established formal cooperation with six other Member States of the EU. Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement. By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, ESA can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country. It is working in particular with the EU on implementing the Galileo and Copernicus programmes as well as with EUMETSAT for the development of meteorological missions. ESA develops the launchers, spacecraft and ground facilities needed to keep Europe at the forefront of global space activities. Today, it develops and launches satellites for Earth observation, navigation, telecommunications and astronomy, sends probes to the far reaches of the Solar System and cooperates in the human exploration of space. ESA also has a strong applications programme developing services in the Earth observation, navigation and telecommunications domain. For further information, please contact:

News Article | September 7, 2016
Site: phys.org

In early October, the ocean-monitoring satellite Jason-3 will take over from Jason-2 as the reference source of high-precision measurements of the global sea surface height from space. Why should those with an interest in the climate and weather be interested in a satellite "baton passing" occurring 1,336km above the Earth? Because the Jason satellites, and their precursor Topex/Poseidon, have played and will continue to play an extremely important role in our understanding of the weather, the climate and the impacts of climate change. Since 1992, they have been taking highly accurate measurements of sea surface height – down to the millimetre - providing information that is not only crucial for weather forecasting models but also an invaluable, long-term, uninterrupted record of changes. But Jason-2 has been in orbit now for more than eight years, still delivering an excellent mission, and has significantly exceeded its nominal lifespan of five years, so the time is right for Jason-3 to take over. Jason-3 is expected to ensure this long-term record continues until 2021. Jason-3, which was launched on 17 January, is an international cooperative project, involving EUMETSAT, the French Space Agency (CNES), the US's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the EU, which funds European contributions to the satellite's operations as part of its flagship Earth observation environmental programme, Copernicus. This is the first dedicated altimeter mission to be funded by Copernicus. "Since its launch on 17 January, Jason-3 has been flying together with Jason-2 in a tandem flight configuration, with each satellite being about 80 seconds or 500km apart," EUMETSAT Altimetry manager François Parisot explains. "This allows a very precise comparison and direct cross calibration between the instruments flying on both platforms. "After more than six months in this configuration, the Jason-3 instruments are now fully calibrated and have demonstrated performances at least equivalent to those of Jason-2. So, Jason-3 can become the reference altimetry mission. "In order to improve the overall data sampling time and space coverage, Jason-2 will be slightly moved to reach a new position, on the same orbit but at 180° from Jason-3, thus overflying different ocean surfaces and at a different time than Jason-3. "To achieve this, Jason-2 will be first manoeuvred to an orbit about 10km below or above Jason-3, allowing it to drift in position, then going back to its initial orbit altitude in order to stop this drift at the right time. This overall sequence will take approximately 10 days." The primary instrument onboard Jason-3 is its radar altimeter. The rising sea level is key indicator of climate change, so accurate measurements are crucial. Globally, the sea level has risen 70mm since 1992 but this rise has not been geographically uniform. Climate researchers need to understand the reasons behind these differences and Jason-3, building on the work of its predecessors, will contribute to this understanding. Aiding understanding of the climate and climate change is just one of the uses of the data produced by Jason-3, however. "The height of the oceans is also a measurement of what is happening in the column of water below the place where we take the measurements," Parisot said. "It helps build a numerical model of the oceans and then this numerical model of the oceans can be coupled with a numerical model of the atmosphere. "Weather forecasters can use these in the preparation of seasonal forecasts, to give the trends for the weather in the months ahead. "For these longer term forecasts, it is important to know what is happening in the oceans and Jason-3 will provide this information." Data from Jason-3's measurements of sea surface height, wind speed and wave height will have numerous applications in the areas of marine meteorology, operational oceanography and climate observation. The benefits extend beyond more accurate weather forecasting and improved knowledge of the climate and its changes to include, for example, the potential to improve ocean transport safety and understanding of fisheries. So now Jason-3 will take on a major role in ensuring we have the most accurate information possible about the Earth's oceans. Planning is already well underway for the next "baton change" when the time comes, with the Jason-Continuity of Service (Jason-CS) programme – a cooperative mission involving Europe, through EUMETSAT, the European Space Agency, CNES and the European Union, and the United States, through NASA and NOAA – under development.

News Article | January 16, 2016
Site: phys.org

The satellite, known as Jason-3, aims to offer a more precise look at how global warming and sea level rise affect wind speeds and currents as close as one kilometer (0.6 miles) from shore, whereas past satellites were limited to about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from the coast. "That is a significant advantage over our predecessors," said Jim Silva, Jason-3 program manager at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The technology will also monitor global sea surface heights, tropical cyclones and help support seasonal and coastal forecasts. During a five-year mission, its data will also be used to aid fisheries management and research into human impacts on the world's oceans. The satellite is the fruit of a four-way partnership between NOAA, NASA, the French space agency CNES (Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales) and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT). The launch is scheduled for Sunday, January 17 at 10:42 am (1842 GMT) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The weather outlook was clear for launch time, but in case of a delay, another launch window opens Monday at 1831 GMT. After the rocket sends the satellite on its way, the first stage of the Falcon 9 will power back toward Earth in a bid to set itself down on a barge, or droneship, as SpaceX calls the floating platform. The attempt is the latest in a series of trial runs as SpaceX attempts to make rocket parts reusable, lowering the cost of spaceflight and making it more sustainable and accessible. Currently, expensive rocket components are jettisoned into the ocean after launch, wasting hundreds of millions of dollars. The California-based company headed by Internet entrpreneur Elon Musk managed to land the Falcon 9's first stage—the long, towering portion of rocket—on land at Cape Canaveral last month. But an ocean landing has proven elusive, with prior attempts ending in failure. According to Hans Koenigsmann, president of mission assurance at SpaceX, the company decided to try an ocean landing because it did not have the "environmental approval" to attempt a landing on solid ground in the area, though it hopes to in the future. "We had a really good landing last time so things are looking good," he told reporters. There will not likely be any live images of the touchdown, due to the droneship's distance from shore, he added. Explore further: SpaceX to launch rocket Dec 19, six months after blast

Agency: GTR | Branch: NERC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 276.66K | Year: 2016

Large thunderstorms are one of the most damaging of weather phenomena. Hail can devastate crops, flash flooding can inundate towns and homes, lightning can threaten people and ignite fires, and strong gusts can damage transport and infrastructure. Convective storms and associated phenomena cause 5-8 billion euro per year in damage across Europe. Such storms have the potential to be forecast and the public warned beforehand, but forecasting becomes increasingly difficult as the length of a forecast increases. In the near-term, observations and high-resolution computer modelling can provide adequate warning of impending storms, but for periods longer than three days ahead the outbreak of thunderstorms has to be deduced indirectly from the computer forecast even if the large-scale flow is well forecasted. The aim of this project is to improve our understanding of the relationship between thunderstorms (also called convective storms) and the larger-scale environment in the atmosphere, to provide better understanding of the physical processes responsible to aid forecasters in interpreting the model predictions. Convective storms require three ingredients: sufficient moisture to condense and fuel the storm, instability or the rate at which temperature decreases with height (temperature dropping quickly with height is better), and something to lift air to release the instability. In this proposal, we focus on the instability ingredient. In the United States, environments with large instability are believed to occur because of heating over the elevated terrain of the western United States, resulting in the elevated mixed-layer (EML). In Europe, EMLs are attributed to passage over the elevated terrain of central Spain, resulting in the Spanish plume. Such sensible heating of lower-tropospheric air (3-5 km above sea level) by an elevated heat source such as the Rockies or Spanish plateau is a natural explanation for the steep lapse rates in the EML. How much of a contribution is the elevated heating to the formation of instability? The smaller scale of the Spanish high terrain compared to the Rocky Mountains makes it difficult to imagine that the Spanish high terrain creates such large instability. One hypothesis for the origin of the steep lapse rates is the Sahara Desert, where a well-mixed boundary layer forms steep lapse rates that can be advected away from northern Africa (known as the Saharan Air Layer). Yet, this hypothesis has not been tested, either for the Spanish plume or other regions downstream of high heated terrain. A different factor said to explain the occurrence of instability is the differential transport of air with low temperature or low moisture aloft. Although such explanations have been used in the literature, other studies have questioned the applicability of this factor. Our proposed research asks what processes produce the environment for midlatitude convective storms around the globe. What environments are favourable for instability, and how does this differ around the globe? What are the physical processes that create instability? Is instability - in Europe generally and the UK specifically - attributed to elevated heating, as in the EML of the central United States or by long-range transport? Despite conventional wisdom stating that the elevated mixed layer is responsible for creating the instability downstream of high terrain, it remains untested. Our aim in this proposal is to develop a better understanding of the relationship between high terrain, large-scale processes, and instability for midlatitude convective storms. These concerns motivate a multifaceted research project to answer these questions. Q1: What are the physical processes responsible for creating instability? Q2: How does topography create a favourable environment for deep moist convection? Q3: How important is differential temperature and moisture advection to creating instability?

Von Engeln A.,EUMETSAT | Teixeira J.,Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Journal of Climate | Year: 2013

A planetary boundary layer (PBL) height climatology from ECMWF reanalysis data is generated and analyzed. Different methods are first compared to derive PBL heights from atmospheric temperature, pressure, and relative humidity (RH), which mostly make use of profile gradients, for example, in RH, refractivity, and virtual or potential temperature. Three methods based on the vertical gradient of RH, virtual temperature, and potential temperature were selected for the climatology generation. The RH-based method appears to capture the inversion that caps the convective boundary layer very well as a result of its temperature and humidity dependence, while the temperature-based methods appear to capture the PBL better at high latitudes. A validation of the reanalysis fields with collocated radiosonde data shows generally good agreement in terms of mean PBL height and standard deviation for the RH-based method. The generated ECMWF-based PBL height climatology shows many of the expected climatological features, such as a fairly low PBL height near the west coast of continents where stratus clouds are found and PBL growth as the air is advected over warmer waters toward the tropics along the trade winds. Large seasonal and diurnal variations are primarily found over land. The PBL height can exceed 3 km, mostly over desert areas during the day, although large values can also be found in areas such as the ITCZ. The robustness of the statistics was analyzed by using information on the percentage of outliers. Here in particular, the sea-based PBL was found to be very stable. © 2013 American Meteorological Society.

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