New satellite expected to improve hurricane forecasting, climate science

Weather Blog

A new satellite expected to launch into orbit November 10th of this year is expected to collect data to further our study of Earth’s climate and enhance hurricane forecasting. The launch is the fourth installment of a 28-year joint international mission between NASA, NOAA, the European Space Agency and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites

The satellite, “Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich”, will allow scientists to track sea-level rise, study tsunami dynamics, the El Niño Southern Oscillation, and more accurately predict hurricane intensity. For example, the satellite is designed to estimate the heat stored in the upper layer of the ocean (or “hurricane fuel”) to better evaluate the potential for a strengthening storm.

An identical satellite will launch at a later time and, between the two, will be able to map 95% of Earth’s ice-free ocean every 10 days.

Other information on ocean currents, wind speed and wave height will be used to improve maritime safety, and protecting/managing the increasingly busy coastal zones.

Analyzing climate change

One of the primary goals of the mission is to study the height of the ocean, a factor used to evaluate our planet’s changing climate. Recent data shows sea level rise continuing to threaten major coastlines across the globe, and that rate of sea level rise is 50% faster in the past 10 years than during the previous 10 years. Scientists say this new satellite will be key in monitoring the continued acceleration of sea level rise.

Timing of new data

As mentioned, the satellite is expected to launch early November of 2020 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. After a few weeks of testing the data, scientists will spend the following 5 months verifying that data. If all goes well, the data will begin to be used in models a year after launch.

For more information on the Sentinel-6 satellite, click here.

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