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Proceedings of OceanObs'09: Sustained Ocean Observations and Information for Society

COMMUNITY WHITE PAPER10.5270/OceanObs09.cwp.33

The Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) Mission

Lee-Lueng Fu(1), Douglas Alsdorf Alsdorf(2), Erensto Rodriguez(1), Rosemary Morrow(3), Nelly Mognard(3), Juliette Lambin(4), Parag Vaze(1), Thierry Lafon(5)

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Satellite altimetry has revolutionized the study of the global oceans for the past two decades by providing unprecedented observations of the ocean surface topography at scales larger than about 200 km and made significant advances in our understanding of global ocean circulation and sea level change. However, the coarse cross-track sampling and measurement precision have prevented resolving scales shorter than 100 km, the submesoscales that are important for understanding the dynamics of the ocean kinetic energy and the vertical transfer processes in the ocean that account for 50% of the exchange of water properties (nutrients, dissolved CO2, heat) between the upper and the deep ocean. These processes are critical to the understanding of the role of the ocean in regulating global climate change. Altimetry measurements have also been applied to the study of the water levels of rivers and lakes, but the coarse resolution of the data has severely limited its ability in addressing key hydrological questions on the storage of water on land and its discharge. A new space mission called Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) is being developed jointly by a collaborative effort of the international oceanographic and hydrological communities for making high-resolution measurement of the water elevation of both the ocean and land surface water to answer the questions about the oceanic submesoscale processes and the storage and discharge of land surface water. The key instrument payload is a Ka-band radar interferometer capable of making high-resolution wide-swath altimetry measurement. This paper describes the science objectives and requirements as well as the measurement approach of SWOT, which is anticipated to be launched in 2016. SWOT will demonstrate this new approach to advancing both oceanography and land hydrology and set a standard for future altimetry missions.

1Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, California 91011 USA
2Ohio State University, Enarson Hall 154 W 12th Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43210 USA
3LEGOS (Laboratoire d'Études en Géophysique et Océanographie), CNES (Centre National d'Études Spatiales), 18 av. Edouard Belin, 31401 Toulouse Cedex 9 France
4CNES (Centre National d'Études Spatiales), 18 av. Edouard Belin, 31401 Toulouse Cedex 9 France
5Centre national d'études spatiales (CNES), 18 av. Edouard Belin, 31401 Toulouse Cedex 9 France

Correspondence should be addressed to E-mail: llf@jpl.nasa.gov

This paper shall be cited as:

Fu, L. & Co-Authors (2010). "The Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) Mission" in Proceedings of OceanObs’09: Sustained Ocean Observations and Information for Society (Vol. 2), Venice, Italy, 21-25 September 2009, Hall, J., Harrison, D.E. & Stammer, D., Eds., ESA Publication WPP-306, doi:10.5270/OceanObs09.cwp.33

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