Europe’s meteorological satellite agency EUMETSAT has released the first set of global sea level data to be captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite mission.
Launched in California on November 21, 2020, the satellite underwent 12 months of intensive, in-orbit testing before the release of the high-resolution sea level data captured by its onboard altimeter. It is the first of a new generation of ocean-altimetry satellites and will be followed into orbit by its twin, Sentinel-6B, in 2025.
According to EUMETSAT, the unique European-American mission will become the reference mission against which all other satellite ocean altimetry missions will measure their accuracy.
Julia Figa Saldana, ocean altimetry program manager for EUMETSAT, said, “The data released today is critical for monitoring the impact of climate change on Earth’s oceans. As the satellite ocean altimetry reference mission, it will continue the unbroken high-precision data record of sea level rise first started in 1992.
“Experts from around the globe have closely examined and validated the data, confirming that the Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich mission is robust, precise and highly reliable. By cross-calibrating Sentinel-6 against its predecessor Jason-3 to within 1mm, we ensure that the 30-year long record of global mean sea level, as captured by satellite radar altimeters, continues uninterrupted.”
Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich is controlled from EUMETSAT’s Darmstadt headquarters in Germany, where its altimetry data is processed then disseminated to users of the data.
EUMETSAT’s mission partners include the European Commission, the European Space Agency (ESA), NASA and the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), with support from the French Space Agency (CNES).
The satellite measures, every second, ocean height to within 3cm from an altitude of 1,336km above the Earth. This allows the global mean sea level to be determined with an accuracy of 1mm. Lower accuracy, quick-release data from the Copernicus Sentinel-6 mission, released mid-year, is critical for weather forecasting purposes, for example, in models used to create seasonal forecasts or to forecast the development of and track hurricanes.