Prolific Sea-Observing Satellite Turns 10

An international oceanography satellite that is tracking the ongoing rise in global sea level marks its 10th year in orbit today.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Image - Satellites - Jason - small

Designed for a three-to-five-year mission, the joint U.S./European Ocean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM) on the Jason-2 satellite has now made more than 47,000 trips around our home planet, measuring sea level change across the globe, observing ocean currents, studying climate phenomena such as El Nino and La Nina, and monitoring the long-term rise in global mean sea level. In January 2016, it was joined in orbit by its follow-on mission, Jason-3.

In July 2017, Jason-2 began a new science mission when it was manoeuvred into a slightly lower orbit. In this new orbit, Jason-2 is collecting data along a series of very closely spaced ground tracks, 8km apart. It will take just over a year for Jason-2 to complete one cycle of these new ground tracks, which provide a very accurate and high-resolution estimate of the mean sea surface. The pull of gravity from underwater mountains and other features of the sea floor helps to shape the mean sea surface. These new surface measurements are already being used by scientists to improve maps of the shape and depth of the sea floor, resolving many previously unknown seamounts and other geological features on the ocean bottom. The new maps will also allow for advances in ocean modelling, naval operations and solid Earth dynamics.

Jason-2 data from the new orbit are used by operational agencies to provide societal and strategic benefits, such as real-time information used to derive ocean currents; improving marine, fishery and naval operations; and calculating tropical cyclone heat potential to improve forecasts of the intensity of tropical hurricanes and cyclones.

"Along with Jason-3, Jason-2 has extended the record of global sea level rise into a third decade," said Glenn Shirtliffe, Jason-2 project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which manages the U.S. portion of the Jason-2 mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

NASA is currently working with its partners - the European Space Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Centre National d’etudes Spatiales and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites - on future generations of satellite altimeters. The instruments are projected for launch in the next decade. They include the Sentinel-6/Jason Continuity of Service (Jason-CS) and Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) missions.

"Jason-2 and Jason-3 measure the rise in global sea level caused by global warming," said Josh Willis, JPL oceanographer and project scientist for the Jason-2 and Jason-3 missions. "Melting ice and expanding seawater drive global sea levels higher and higher each year. The rise has become a powerful reminder of how fast humans are changing the climate. These missions keep our finger on the pulse of climate change."

Other significant science results from the Jason-2 mission include studies of ocean circulation; the ties between the ocean and the atmosphere; and improved global climate forecasts and predictions.

“The 10th anniversary of the launch of Jason-2 is also a landmark in the development of operational oceanography, as this was the first Jason mission involving two operational agencies, EUMETSAT and NOAA,” said EUMETSAT Director-General Alain Ratier. “This paved the way for the transition from highly successful research missions to an operational altimeter system, which has now turned to reality with Jason-3, Jason-CS/Sentinel-6 and Sentinel-3 providing data until 2030.”

“After 10 years of excellent service, we’re excited that Jason-2 is continuing to help forecast hurricane intensity and monitor winds and waves, while taking on a new mission of mapping unexplored parts of the ocean,” said Eric Leuliette, NOAA’s Jason Program and Project Scientist.

For more information on Jason-2 and other satellite altimetry missions, visit:

OSTM/Jason-2 is a joint satellite mission operated by CNES, EUMETSAT, NOAA and NASA.


The European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites is an intergovernmental organisation based in Darmstadt, Germany, currently with 30 Member States (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom).

EUMETSAT operates the geostationary satellites Meteosat -9, -10 and -11 over Europe and Africa, and Meteosat-8 over the Indian Ocean.

EUMETSAT operates two Metop polar-orbiting satellites as part of the Initial Joint Polar System (IJPS) shared with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

EUMETSAT is also a partner in the cooperative sea level monitoring Jason missions (Jason-2, Jason-3 and Jason-CS/Sentinel-6) involving Europe and the United States.

The data and products from EUMETSAT’s satellites are vital to weather forecasting and make a significant contribution to the monitoring of environment and climate change.

The European Union has entrusted EUMETSAT with exploiting the four Sentinel missions of the Copernicus space component dedicated to the monitoring of atmosphere, ocean and climate on its behalf. EUMETSAT carries out these tasks in cooperation with ESA and already exploits the Sentinel-3 marine mission.

EUMETSAT has established cooperation with operators of Earth Observation satellites from Europe and China, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States.

Media Relations EUMETSAT

Tel: +49 6151 807 7320

Media Relations NOAA/NASA

Alan Buis
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Tel: 818-354-0474

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