Wednesday, November 26, 2014

ESA Creates Most Accurate Map Of Ocean Currents From Space Data

Model of ocean current speeds created from GOCE satellite data
Model of ocean current speeds created from GOCE satellite data.  Image Credit: ESA


The European Space Agency has created the most accurate model of ocean current speeds ever from data recorded by a research satellite from space. 


The satellite, named Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer or "GOCE", spent more than four years mapping Earth’s gravity.  To accomplish this scientific task, GOCE had to orbit Earth at the lowest altitude of any research satellite. 


Dubbed the ‘Ferrari of space’ because of its sleek, aerodynamic design to minimize atmospheric drag in an extemely low earth orbit, GOCE mapped variations in Earth’s gravity with extreme detail before re-entering Earth's atmosphere in an uncontrolled decent a year ago.  Although the mission is well known for its gravity measurements, the second mission objective was to measure ocean circulation.


GOCE Satellite
GOCE Satellite.  Image Credit: ESA


“The accurate estimate of ocean surface currents, as provided today by the combination of GOCE and altimetry data, is crucial for the better understanding of the ocean dynamics,” said Marie-Hélène Rio from the Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate of the Italian National Research Council.


“In particular, the assimilation of this information into operational ocean monitoring and forecasting systems will provide highly valuable new insight into the present and future state of the ocean.”