Jason-3 altimeter data is part of the Copernicus programme and is used by the Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service (CMEMS).

As the altimetry reference mission, Jason-3 links up the other altimeter missions — Jason-2, Sentinel-3, Altika, Cryosat-2 and HY-2A — by precisely determining any bias between them and by adjusting them against the Jason-3 reference mission.

Jason-3 ensures a continuation of the series of measurements supporting meteorology, operational oceanography and the monitoring of the sea-level trend, which is a key indicator of climate change.

  • Launched: 17 January 2016, Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, on a SpaceX Falcon 9 launcher.
  • Operational:14 October 2016.
  • Orbit: Non-sun-synchronous low Earth orbit at 66° inclination and 1336 km altitude, optimised to eliminate tidal aliasing from sea surface height and mean sea level measurements. Jason-2, flies on the same orbit but at 162°


  • Measurements of ocean topography — the equivalent of surface pressure in the atmosphere — enabling numerical prediction of the three-dimensional ocean, a prerequisite to the development of operational oceanography, in combination with marine meteorology.
  • Helping improve monthly forecasts, e.g. heatwaves or sustained heavy rainfall, and seasonal forecasts, e.g. a cold winter or a hot summer, due to the sustained influence of the ocean on the atmosphere.
  • Variations of sea level (some mm per year) in our changing climate can only be monitored on global scale by High Precision Ocean Altimetry (HPOA) observations (composed of Jason-3 and future Jason-CS data), and ocean surface topography measurements are essential to understand how the ocean stores and redistributes heat, water and carbon in the climate system.
  • Altimeter observations are a unique source of ocean surface wind speed measurements for the validation of the new very high resolution (1 to 2 km) regional Numerical Weather Prediction models, to improve short range prediction of high impact weather, such as hurricanes.

Dr Joshua Willis

"Satellite altimeters have been called one of the most successful oceanographic missions of all time. Their legacy has revolutionised oceanography."

Dr Joshua Willis, Jason-3 Project Scientist, NOAA


Jason-3 Mission

The Jason missions use radar altimetry sensors that measure the time a signal takes to bounce off the ocean surface and return to the satellite, to provide global measurements of sea surface height that are accurate to within a few centimetres. This information, combined with GPS and DORIS measurements of the satellite's location, allows complete global mapping of sea surface height once every 10 days.

Only space-based radar altimetry can observe the topography of the ocean surface, a parameter that carries the signature of the ocean currents beneath, and, over longer time scales, that of climate change in terms of variations of mean sea level. Altimetry also measures surface wind speed and the height of ocean waves.

Jason data can help support forecasting for:

  • Operational oceanography
  • Ocean modelling
  • Contribution to seasonal forecasting
  • Climate monitoring through mean sea level rise
  • Ship routing
  • Maritime industries
  • Fisheries
  • Responding to environmental hazards in coastal areas
  • Search and rescue
  • Military operations

The Jason-3 programme is built on the same cooperation as Jason-2, involving EUMETSAT, NOAA, CNES and NASA, with Copernicus expected to support the European contribution to operations, as part of its HPOA activity, which also covers contributions to the Jason-CS programme.

About Copernicus

Copernicus Resources


Photo of AMR
Jason-3's Advanced Microwave Radiometer (Credit: NOAA)

Jason-3 follows the same design as Jason-2. It is based on the same Proteus platform delivered by CNES and has the same US and European instruments.

System operations also use the same ground system and cooperation arrangements as Jason-2.

Jason-3 design


Photo of AMR
One-day simulation of Sentinel-3 footprints (Credit: ESA)

A full suite of Jason-3 products became available on 1 November 2016. The data include significant wave height, wind speed and sea surface height.

  • Geophysical Data Record (GDR) — available within 60 days.
  • Near-real time (NRT) Operational Geophysical Data Records (OGDR) — available within three hours
  • Non-time critical (NTC) Interim Geophysical Data Record (IGDR) — available within two days

Ocean Products

Jason-3 videos

Videos on the Jason-3 programme and the applications of Jason-3 satellite data.

  • CG image of Jason-3
    Jason 3-Continuing Decades of Ocean Surface Measurements
    NOAA video, introducing the Jason-3 satellite and its mission.
  • Coasts
    CNES video, outlining how Jason satellite data is used to monitor coastal erosion and predict flooding.
  • Marine Wildlife
    CNES video, illustrating how Jason data is used to track and assist in the protection of marine wildlife.
  • Sea Level
    CNES video, outlining how Jason satellite data is used to monitor global sea levels.
  • The Water Cycle
    CNES video, illustrating how Jason data is helping us understand the water cycle.
  • Operational Oceanography
    CNES video, outlining how Jason satellite data is helping support operational oceanography around the globe.
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