Topic 3b - Oceans: Applications

In this video Dr Helen Snaith highlights the importance of measuring and monitoring the state of the ocean from space, focusing in particular on ocean circulation and currents. She discusses how radar altimeter data, from a long series of ocean remote sensing missions, have transformed our understanding of ocean water movements. She also explains how new information from the first ESA Earth Explorer mission in orbit, the ‘Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer’ (GOCE) mission, has brought about a new level of understanding of Earth’s gravity field and ‘geoid’, that allows these radar altimeter data to be even better exploited.

An understanding of global ocean circulation and ocean currents is essential for investigating the role our oceans play in the Earth system. Due to the dynamic, complex nature of ocean water movements, it is vital that measurements are conducted frequently and at a global scale to investigate these issues. Using pulses of microwave radiation transmitted from Earth orbiting satellites, radar altimetry provides a method of mapping the surface height of the ocean at high spatial and temporal resolution across the globe. To be of most use, this information must be combined with information about the ‘geoid’, a model of global mean sea level that is used to measure precise surface elevations.

Featured Experts:

  • Dr Helen Snaith

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