People living in coastal communities or navigating treacherous waters will both benefit from data flowing from the new Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite mission.
The satellite is expected to launch on Saturday (November 21) at 12:17 EST (9:17 local time and 1717 GMT) Space Launch Complex 4 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, on a five-year quest to map the ocean rise associated with global warming. Sentinel-6 will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. You can watch it live here on Space.com, thanks to NASA TV.
The weather is 80% go to the primary launch option on Saturday and a backup launch time on Sunday at. 1
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Sentinel-6 will not be represented separately in products from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), but it will improve the models and maps that NOAA and other mission partners already produce to better protect the world’s population from intensifying hurricanes, representatives said.
Sentinel-6 observations will be included in e.g. Ocean wave forecasts (convenient for transporting products over the sea) and tropical storm forecasts to quickly evacuate coastal populations if the need arises.
Once Sentinel-6 completes its one-year deployment period, anyone around the world – including educators, students and other members of the public – can download raw data from the European Meteorological Satellite Organization (EUMETSAT) website.
For researchers looking to improve their climate models, Sentinel-6’s work will be easily combined with other scientific missions. For example, altitude measurements collected from Sentinel-6 could be combined with Earth’s gravity measurements from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites.
This combination of measurements will show how much of the ocean’s rise comes from melting ice sheets and how much from the ocean’s rise comes from ocean expansion due to the overall warming of the ocean, Karen St. said. Germain, director of NASA’s Department of Earth Sciences, in a briefing focused on the mission’s scientific return.
Related: Melting ice sheets add 15 inches to global sea level rise by 2100
“Since 70% of the earth’s surface is sea, the oceans play an important role in how the whole system [of global warming] changes, “she said. These global changes create both risks and opportunities for our human society. “
The benefits of Sentinel-6 data will flow to almost all sectors affected by climate change, as 90% of the heat captured by human-emitted greenhouse gases eventually ends up in the ocean, said Josh Willis, Sentinel-6 project researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in science briefing.
“We see the speed of the sea surface rising right before our eyes, and it’s satellites like this that allow us to do that,” Willis said. The rate of sea level rise is accelerating, making it crucial to add high-definition data from Sentinel-6 to existing satellite altimeters, he noted. Today’s sea level rise is close to 5 millimeters per year, more than double the annual rate of increase mapped in the 1990s.
Complicating predictions are that the rise in sea level is not going at the same speed around the world. Large cities like New York City and Amsterdam are particularly prone to water-causing flooding among their populations, said Craig Donlon, Sentinel-6 project researcher at the European Space Agency, in the same briefing. Worse, he added, for every inch of sea level, as many as three million more people worldwide are exposed to flood threats.
“Earth is warming and the biggest indicator is rising sea levels,” Donlon said. While space satellites have been tracking it in detail for 30 years, the root of this problem began in the Industrial Revolution as nations began burning huge reserves of carbon through coal, oil and other natural resources to power their economies.
While the researchers look forward to accurate results from Sentinel-6, the launch teams are working to stay safe amidst newer pandemic protocols such as temperature control when entering buildings, physical distance between workers and quarantines after the trip.
“There are worse things than getting caught off the coast of California,” Tim Dunn, NASA’s launch director, joked during a news conference Friday. While the team may not eat in restaurants as usual, they are still doing team building activities such as outdoor patio meetings and joint training, also outdoors, he said.
Morale remains high among the group, and Dunn said he is proud of all the adjustments his colleagues are making. “It’s good to be with the team and to know the importance of what we do,” he said. “It gives us energy and gives us the energy we need to keep pushing forward.”
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