December 16, 2008

NASA releases oceanography data

The U.S. space agency says it is releasing oceanography data that will help scientists around the world better understand climate change.

The data being made public comes from the Ocean Surface Topography Mission, a spacecraft known as OSTM/Jason-2 that was developed jointly by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the French space agency.

Launched June 20, the mission's first validated data products in support of improved weather, climate and ocean forecasts are now being distributed to the public within a few hours of observation, NASA said.

Beginning in 2009, other data products for climate research will be available a few days to a few weeks after observations are taken by the satellite, officials said.

The satellite monitors 95 percent of the world's ice-free oceans every 10 days from a low Earth orbit, tracking ocean circulation patterns and measuring sea-surface height and the rate of sea-level rise, both critical factors in understanding climate change.

The mission is a joint effort among NASA,,the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, France's Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites.

NOAA operates the satellite, with NASA evaluating the performance of its instruments. In addition, NASA and the French will validate scientific data products.