TOPEX: Observing the oceans from space

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Abstract

The vastness and inaccessibility of the oceans make difficult the collection of measurements necessary to develop detailed models of the oceans and an understanding of oceanic dynamics. However, the combination of satellite altimetry and scatterometer wind measurements, technologies developed and demonstrated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, together with enhanced in situ measurements, can provide a major improvement in our ability to observe the oceans globally and synoptically. For example, these data could greatly improve the modeling and long-range predictions of global oceanographic and atmospheric anomalies associated with the El Niño/Southern Oscillation such as occurred in 1982–1983. Hence, the launch of the Ocean Topography Experiment (TOPEX) satellite, which will provide worldwide altimeter data, combined with the initiation of international programs such as the World Climate Research Program, will lead to significant progress in the understanding of oceanic processes on global scales.

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