PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIFORNIA 91109. TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
Contact: Mary Hardin, JPL, (818) 354-5011
Phillipe Collot, Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales
(CNES), Paris (Phone: 33-1-44-76-78-04)
NOTE TO EDITORS:October 8, 1997
NASA AND FRENCH SPACE AGENCY SPONSOR SPACE OCEANOGRAPHY
Oceanographic experts from around the world will meet Oct.
15-17 in Biarritz, France, to discuss the emerging prospects for
an integrated approach to ocean science that combines space
observations, in-situ measurements and numerical models in new
ways that could lead to months-long forecasts of ocean dynamics
on regional and global scales.
The symposium, titled "Ocean Monitoring to the Year 2000: An
Integrated Approach," will focus on a variety of scientific
results flowing from the U.S.-French TOPEX/Poseidon satellite,
launched in 1992, and plans for its smaller, yet equally capable
successor, Jason-1, due for launch in May 2000.
"TOPEX/Poseidon has been a blueprint for productive
international Earth science cooperation, and the findings of this
symposium should lay the groundwork for Jason-1 to extend this
cooperation through at least the early years of the 21st
century," said William Townsend, Acting Associate Administrator
for the NASA Office of Mission to Planet Earth, Washington, DC.
TOPEX/Poseidon, a joint program of NASA and the Centre
National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES), the French space agency, uses
a radar altimeter to precisely measure sea-surface height.
Scientists use the data from TOPEX/Poseidon to produce global
maps of ocean topography every ten days. The satellite has
mapped this circulation with an absolute accuracy of four
centimeter (1.8 inches), versus its design goal of 13 centimeter
A major focus of current TOPEX/Poseidon research is the
monitoring of the third weather-disrupting phenomenon known as El
Niņo that has been observed during the satellite's lifetime. An
El Niņo is thought to be triggered when steady westward blowing
trade winds weaken and even reverse direction. This change in
the winds allows the large mass of warm water that is normally
located near Australia to move eastward along the equator until
it reaches the coast of South America. This displaced pool of
unusually warm water affects evaporation, where rain clouds form
and, consequently, alters the typical atmospheric jet stream
patterns around the world.
TOPEX/Poseidon sea-surface height data are essential to a
better understanding of the role oceans play in regulating global
climate change, one of the least understood areas of climate
research. TOPEX/Poseidon is part of NASA's Mission to Planet
Earth, a coordinated, long-term research program to study the
Earth as a global system.