A Earth observation satellite developed by European and US space agencies, which will take off on Saturday, will measure sea level rise, tracking changes that threaten to disrupt tens of millions of lives within a generation.
If all goes according to plan, the payload will be lifted into low-Earth orbit 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) from the Space X Falcon 9 rocket, taking off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 17:17 GMT.
Sentinel-6a will be the first of two identical satellites – the second to be launched in five years – that will provide measurements of unprecedented accuracy at least until 2030.
Each Sentinel-6 probe carries a radar altimeter that measures the time it takes for radar pulses to travel to the Earth’s surface and back.
The satellites will orbit the planet in the same orbit as earlier missions, which have provided sea level altitude data for the past three decades, mapping 95 percent of the Earth’s unfrozen ocean every ten days.
Accelerating sea level rise is perhaps the impact of climate change, which will affect the largest number of people in the next three decades.
Nearly 800 million people live within five meters of sea level, and even an increase in sea level of a few centimeters can lead to significantly more damage from tides.
Sea level rise is accelerating
Today, there are more than 100 million people living below the tide.
“Extreme events at sea level, which are historically rare – once a century in the recent past – are projected to occur frequently, at least once a year, in many places by 2050,” especially in the tropics, the UN Advisory Panel on climate, the IPCC, concluded in a major report last year.
Satellites tracking the world’s oceans since 1993 show that the average sea level has risen by an average of more than three millimeters (more than a tenth of an inch) per year.
More recently, this speed has increased to 5 mm per year.
“It is crucial to be able to see these accelerations,” said Alain Rathieu, outgoing director general of the European meteorological satellite agency EUMETSAT.
China, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand are home to the largest numbers of people living on land today, which could be threatened by constant flooding by 2100.
The IPCC predicts an increase in global sea level rise to 1.1 meters (43 inches) by the end of the century.
The Copernicus Sentinel-6 mission is a collaboration between the European Commission, the European Space Agency (ESA), EUMETSAT, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The Sentinel satellites are the size and shape of a large minivan covered with sloping solar panels and weigh nearly 1,200 kilograms, including rocket fuel.
They are designed to last five and a half years, but can provide data for much longer.
Copernicus Sentinel-6, measuring sea level using radar altimetry
© 2020 AFP
Quote: Satellite tracking rising sea warming (2020, November 20) retrieved on November 21, 2020 from https://phys.org/news/2020-11-satellite-track-seas-climate.html
This document is subject to copyright. Except for any fair transaction for the purpose of private examination or research, no part may be reproduced without written permission. The content is provided for informational purposes only.