Advances in the use of space in the science of oceanography -- monitoring the world's seas and weather from orbiting satellites -- will be the focus of an international colloquium Nov. 18 at JPL.

Expected to draw several hundred oceanographers, meteorologists and other earth scientists, the day-long conference will combine overviews of NASA's space oceanography program with technical discussions of past and current satellite missions.

Nearly all current work in the field was pioneered by Seasat, JPL satellite launched in 1978. The proof-of-concept project -- the first Earth orbiter devoted to ocean studies -- established that satellites could accurately measure ocean waves and currents, temperatures, winds, humidity and ice formations.

Those measurements are important, scientists believe, because the oceans are the source of the world's weather. Results from Seasat led to the planning of several second- generation satellites and instruments; they are expected not only to advance scientific theories of the ocean environment but also to offer commercial benefits in fishing, shipping and oil that could save such industries millions of dollars year.

JPL is involved in two satellite-oceanography projects, NSCAT and the proposed TOPEX/Poseidon.

NSCAT, or the NASA Scatterometer, is an instrument JPL is designing and building to be flown in 1990 on U.S. Navy satellite, N-ROSS. The device uses specialized radar techniques to map near-surface sea winds -- the driving force behind ocean weather and currents.

TOPEX -- Ocean Topography Experiment -- is proposal in NASA's current budget request. The satellite is designed to use an altimeter similar to the instrument that flew on Seasat to measure the height of the ocean's surface around the world. TOPEX is proposed as spacecraft to be combined with Poseidon, mission of the French space agency Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES); if funded, it would be launched in the early 1990s.

Both missions are expected to play central roles in research funded by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA is sponsoring the decade-long Tropical Ocean Global Atmosphere project (TOGA), study of how heat exchange in tropical oceans affects world climates. NOAA also supports the World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE), an international study of heat transport in climates around the world.

Scientists hope both studies will offer better understanding of weather phenomena that greatly affect world economies -- such as El Nino, unusual water warming in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

Commercial uses of satellite data are also special interest of NOAA. That federal agency is sponsoring program encouraging private companies to develop software that will allow industries to use oceanographic data from future satellites.

JPL scientists speaking at the conference include Frank Carsey, Michael Freilich, Lee-Lueng Fu, Eni Njoku and Robert Stewart. Donald Collins of JPL's Atmospheric and Oceanographic Science Section is colloquium organizer.

NOTE TO EDITORS: The Nov. 18 colloquium is open to coverage by the press. For further information, contact the JPL Public Information Office.

News Media Contact