SWOT may change into a significant enchancment over measurements by earlier satellites. “As an alternative of a ‘pencil beam’ transferring alongside the Earth’s floor from a satellite tv for pc, it’s a large swath. It’ll present much more data, much more spatial decision, and hopefully higher protection up near the coasts,” says Steve Nerem, a College of Colorado scientist who makes use of satellite tv for pc information to review sea-level rise and isn’t concerned with SWOT. And KaRIn’s swath-mapping expertise is a brand-new approach, he says. “It’s by no means been examined from orbit earlier than, so it’s sort of an experiment. We’re trying ahead to the info.”
SWOT has different devices in its toolkit too, together with a radar altimeter to fill within the gaps between the swaths of knowledge KaRIn collects, a microwave radiometer to measure the quantity of water vapor between SWOT and the Earth’s floor, and an array of mirrors for laser-tracking measurements from the bottom.
New satellite tv for pc information is vital as a result of the way forward for sea-level rise, floods, and droughts could also be worse than some consultants beforehand forecast. “Inside our satellite tv for pc file, we’ve seen sea-level rise alongside US coastlines going up quick over the previous three many years,” says Ben Hamlington, a sea-level rise scientist at JPL on the SWOT science workforce. The speed of sea-level rise is in truth accelerating, particularly on the Gulf Coast and East Coast of the USA. “The trajectory we’re on is pointing us to the upper finish of mannequin projections,” he says, a degree he made in a research final month within the journal Communications Earth & Environment.
Hamlington sees SWOT as a boon for mapping rising sea waters and for researchers learning ocean currents and eddies, which have an effect on how a lot atmospheric heat and carbon oceans absorb. The satellite tv for pc can even help scientists who mannequin storm surges—that’s, when ocean water flows onto land.
The brand new spacecraft’s information can have some synergy with many different Earth-observing satellites already in orbit. These embrace NASA’s Grace-FO, which probes underground water through gravity fluctuations, NASA’s IceSat-2, which surveys ice sheets, glaciers, and sea ice, and commercial flood-mapping satellites that use artificial aperture radar to see via clouds. It additionally follows different altimeter-equipped satellites, just like the US-European Jason-3, the European Area Company’s Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite tv for pc, China’s Haiyang satellites, and the Indian-French Saral spacecraft.
Information from these satellites has already proven that some extent of sea-level rise, excessive floods, storms, and droughts are already baked into our future. However we’re not doomed to local weather catastrophes, Hamlington argues, as a result of we are able to use this information to fend off essentially the most excessive projected outcomes, like people who trigger fast glacier or ice sheet soften. “Lowering emissions takes a number of the increased projections of sea-level rise off the desk,” he says. “Since catastrophic ice sheet loss will solely happen beneath very heat futures, if we are able to restrict warming going ahead, we are able to keep away from worst-case situations.”