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Requirements for Future Satellite Altimetry - Recommendations from the EC GAMBLE Project

David Cotton(1) and Yves Menard(2)

(1) Satellite Observing Systems, 15, Church Street, Surrey GU7 1EL, United Kingdom
(2) CNES, 18 Avenue Edouard Belin, Toulouse 31-401, CEDEX 4, France


Measurements from satellite radar altimeters have revolutionised our knowledge of the ocean, through studies in sea level, ocean circulation and climate variability. Satellite altimetry is recognised as an essential component of global ocean observing systems under programmes such as GODAE, CLIVAR and GOOS, and through its ability to provide stable and accurate long term monitoring of sea-level change.

Altimeter data products are an essential input to European operational oceanography systems such as MERCATOR, MERSEA, FOAM, TOPAZ, and MFSTEP. Altimeter data are also routinely assimilated into wave forecast models, providing support to offshore operations around the world.

The EC Framework 5 GAMBLE Thematic Network brought together European experts in ocean altimetry in a series of workshops to make recommendations for future activity. Specific objectives were:

• To establish error budgets and measurement requirements necessary to resolve key features in sea surface height and sea state.

• To make recommendations for future research, and for future altimeter missions necessary to support recent developments in operational oceanography and to maintain ocean monitoring programmes.

In this poster we present the key recommendations of the GAMBLE community – as they relate to meeting priority requirements for sea surface height and sea state data

In particular he team identified that under present plans the existing satellite altimeter monitoring capabilities are expected to degrade significantly in the medium term. This will have severe implications for the capability of the integrated operational oceanography systems being developed. In addition, a failure of the one altimeter mission currently planned for the period 2008-2011 would break the continuous chain of precise altimeter global sea level measurements seen as an essential component of the international climate change monitoring programmes. Early action is required to avoid this potentially disastrous situation.

Such a situation is incompatible with high priority issues related to global ocean monitoring, coastal area survey and water resources management, as indicated in the European GMES programme, nor is it sufficient to support operational ocean monitoring programmes like MERSEA and MFS in Europe, or Mercator and FOAM at the national level, which are part of the International GODAE initiative.


Workshop presentation

Full paper


                 Last modified: 07.10.03