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Satellite above watches waves below.

Scientists created this map of global wave heights from data gathered by the TOPEX/Poseidon satellite, a joint French-U.S. project and part of NASA's ongoing Mission to Planet Earth. The satellite, fired into orbit Aug. 10 aboard an Ariane 4 rocket launched from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, will observe the world's oceans continuously for three to five years. Scientists will use the data it gathers to improve long-range weather forecasting and clarify the ocean's role in global climate dynamics.

The colors in the photograph above reflect the dominant wave heights detected by TOPEX/Poseidon's instruments. The splash of red and yellow in the southern hemisphere, for example, indicates that 18-to 26-foot-high waves were common in that region during the 10 days it took TOPEX/Poseidon to sweep the globe with its microwave pulses.

TOPEX/Poseidon is the first satellite dedicated solely to oceanographic research since NASA's 1978 Seasat mission. Its instruments will enable oceanographers to map ocean surface features, globe-circling currents, and continent-size circulation patterns with unprecedented accuracy.

These worldwide, long-term measurements are invaluable to researchers who study the dynamics of the Earth's oceans, says Jurrie van der Woude of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

"Oceanographers have studied the seas from ships, but that only gives you a snapshot," van der Woude explains. "Spacecraft like [TOPEX/Poseidon] provide a long-term, coherent, panoramic picture of all the oceans."
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Title Annotation:TOPEX/Poseidon satellite will observe world's oceans for three to five years
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Nov 21, 1992
Words:234
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