CryoSat-2 Now Measuring Ocean Floor Topography
31.05.2012 - Atmosphere & Space, Water & Oceans, Bi-polar
The European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 satellite, which was launched in 2010 to deliver more accurate measurements of land and sea ice thickness, is now doing high-resolution mapping of seafloor topography (bathymetry) and sea-level. This allows CryoSat-2 to map the ocean floor in previously uncharted areas.
Due to greater gravitational pull in areas where there is greater mass, the topography of the ocean surface follows the topography of the ocean floor. If there are massive objects like undersea mountains, the ocean surface above is a bit higher, as the larger mass below attracts more water to it.
While there have been previous global gravity missions recently, including measurements taken by ESA’s GOCE satellite at a resolution of hundreds of kilometres, CryoSat’s altimeter can sense the gravity field at the ocean surface at a resolution of 10 to 15 metres – a resolution 1.4 times better than NASA’s GEOSAT or ESA’s ERS-1.
Improved precision, as well as a 369-day orbital cycle that will allow for dense mapping, will result in seafloor topography mapping that is two to four times more accurate as current measurements, according to a studies conducted at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego.