Jason 3 Satellite

The Jason 3 satellite will help collect important data on the world’s  oceans                         (Photo: Courtesy of NOAA) 

Launched January 17th, 2016, Jason 3, a satellite weighing 1.120 pounds, took to the skies from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to start a heroic mission…to collect vital data on the world’s oceans in order to track the progress of global climate change over the next three years. This information, ranging from ocean temperatures to sea-level height increments, will give mankind a chance to predict and prepare for the uncertain future climate change has to offer.

Jason 3

Jason 3 satellite being prepared for launch

(Photo: Courtesy of NOAA)

That’s One Giant Step for the Oceans

Our planet acts like a giant greenhouse. Heat from the sun becomes absorbed and “trapped”, in a sense, on account of various gases such as methane and carbon dioxide. However, the largest source of absorbed of heat comes from our oceans; more than ninety percent! Jason 3 will allow scientists to measure or map out the ocean’s surface in order to calculate just how much of the sun’s energy is being stored among the waves. Ocean topography (the hills and valleys of the ocean’s waves) will give insight into specific direction and how fast ocean currents are flowing. This, in turn, will give insight into exactly where the “hot spots” of heat absorption are occurring.

But why would this be so important? What is all the big fuss over a piece of man-made equipment soaring thousands of miles over the face of the Earth? One piece of this answer lies in Jason 3’s capability in allowing scientists to predict patterns of severe weather, such as hurricanes, before they hit heavily populated areas. Predicting when and where major storm systems are going to hit will allow people to evacuate before the storm can strike.

Jason 3 collecting data

A diagram of how Jason 3 collects and transmits data including ocean topography and sea level height

(Photo: Courtesy of NOAA)

All the Bells and Whistles

One major side-effect  of climate change is rising sea-levels. All of the world’s oceans are already rising in their levels at the rate of 3 millimeters a year. Within the course of 20-25 years, that is a grand total of 2.8 inch rise! What is super impressive about Jason 3 is that it will be able to collect data on sea-level height on a global scale of ninety-five percent of all warm oceans every 10 days over the course of its three year flight! Whoa! Talk about super satellite! In addition to tracking rising sea-levels, Jason 3’s super power measurements will prove to be invaluable in various applications in the fields of commercialism, maritime operations and marine science.

Along the lines of marine science, Jason 3 will be able to assist scientists in an improved understanding of how humans have positively and negatively impacted our oceans. Coastal modeling and forecasting will be crucial for marine animal research and for predicting future outcomes of oil spills, algal blooms and other potential disasters. In maritime operations, predicting the size and shape of surface waves will help to protect offshore operators when they are out at sea. Commercial shipping and shipping routes will avoid potential danger with the help of Jason 3’s ability to predict tides and currents. And finally, coastal communities, as a whole, will have the ability to adapt to changes in sea levels as well as protect their citizens from future natural disasters that, unfortunately, come along with global climate change.

satellites

A visual history of data satellites

(Photo: Courtesy of NOAA)

Before Jason 3 begins its full mission, the satellite will go through a six-month testing phase to make sure all instruments and equipment are in tip-top shape. After the testing phase, Jason 3 will be joined by its side-kick, Jason 2, a satellite that was launched back in 2008. This space mission is brought to you in part by the NOAA, NASA, the French Space Agency, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) and the Centre national d’etudes spatiales (CNES)

Isn’t the human mind absolutely amazing? Intelligence, perseverance and a purpose-driven goal have all given mankind the ability to create and develop for, we all hope, the protection and preservation of the Earth. But as Uncle Ben said to Peter Parker in Spider Man, “With great power comes great responsibility.” We all have a huge responsibility in the care of this planet. Already, our planet is changing rapidly in response to climate change. A majority of that change has not been positive and is leading to mass extinction. Let us hope and pray that our power of humanity will make a change for the better in doing what we can in the fight against vanishing flora and fauna.

Works Cited:

  1. Volz, Dr. Stephen. “Jason-3: Understanding Our Seas, From High Above Earth”. NOAA online. 12th February, 2016. Web. Accessed 25th February, 2016. Accessed 7th March, 2016.                                                          **(Dr. Stephen Volz is leads and directs the NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service)