Copernicus Sentinel-3B’s altimeter has Earth’s oceans’ measure

Just two weeks after the launch of the environment-monitoring satellite Sentinel-3B, the third of its payload of instruments – its radar altimeter - has begun sending high-precision measurements back to Earth.

Friday, 11 May 2018

Thumbnail - Sentinel-3B First Images - SRAL

The high-precision sea level anomaly measurements from the Synthetic Aperture Radar Altimeter (SRAL) on Sentinel-3B enhance the Copernicus altimeter constellation of Sentinel-3A and Jason-3, along with Jason-2.

The measurements, all acquired on 8 May 2018, clearly match well at crossing points and the map of sea level anomalies produced by the Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service (CMEMS).

The SRAL instrument

The SRAL instrument is designed to deliver accurate measurements of sea surface height, significant wave height and surface wind speeds over the world’s oceans.

EUMETSAT Altimetry Expert Remko Scharroo said sea level is an important indicator of climate change.

“Globally, the sea level has been rising by an average of just over 3mm per year for the past 20 years but the rise is not uniform,” Scharroo said.

“The rate of sea level rise is increasing by about 1mm per year every decade. This suggests that, by the end of the century, the sea level could have risen by as much as 65cm more than current projections.”

EUMETSAT Competence Area Manager for Marine Applications Francois Montagner said not only are the organisation’s scientists and the whole ground segment ready to receive data from Copernicus Sentinel-3B but so are the users of the data and the models which ingest it.

Pierre Yves Le Traon, Scientific Director at Mercator Ocean, which operates the Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service (CMEMS), said receiving data from altimeters on two Sentinel-3 satellites will bring benefits to marine safety and industries.

“The joint use of Sentinel-3A and Sentinel-3B high precision altimeters will improve capabilities of CMEMS to forecast waves and ocean currents at fine scale,” Le Traon said.

“This is highly needed for the applications we service, such as marine safety, maritime transport and offshore operations.”

The Sentinel-3 mission

Sentinel-3B is the seventh Copernicus Sentinel to be launched. It completes the Copernicus Sentinel-3 constellation by joining its twin, Sentinel-3A, which was launched in 2016. The two-satellite configuration ensures users are provided with the necessary coverage and timely data.

EUMETSAT Copernicus Sentinel-3 Mission Manager Hilary Wilson said the two satellites carry the same suite of instruments to systematically measure the Earth’s oceans, land, ice and atmosphere.

“Over oceans, it measures the temperature, colour and height of the sea surface, as well as the thickness of sea ice,” Wilson said.

“Over land, this innovative mission monitors wildfires, maps the way land is used, checks vegetation health and measures the height of rivers and lakes.

“The European Space Agency is responsible for Sentinel-3B’s current commissioning phase, after which EUMETSAT will take over routine operations.

“EUMETSAT is responsible for processing and disseminating the marine-related Sentinel-3 data stream, while ESA will do the same for the land-related data.”

Image - Logos - Copernicus - Sentinel-3B

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