Published on 23 November 2020
Last Saturday, November 21st, the Copernicus satellite Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich was launched into orbit around Earth on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
Using the latest radar altimetry technology, this new satellite is set to provide a new overview of ocean topography and advance the long-term record of sea-surface height measurements that began in 1992 – measurements that are essential for climate science, for policy-making and, ultimately, for protecting the lives of millions at risk of sea-level rise.
This short video shows how climate change is making our seas rise and how satellites have been systematically measuring the height of the sea's surface since 1992.
With as much as 60% of the world's population living within 150 km of the coast, rising sea levels are a major concern linked to climate change. Sea level monitoring is therefore essential and can count on the help of satellites. For three decades, a series of Franco-American missions called Topex-Poseidon and Jason served as a reference. In combination with the former ESA, ERS and Envisat missions, as well as with the current Cryosat and Copernicus Sentinel-3 missions, these have shown that sea levels have risen by about 3.2 mm per year on average. More alarmingly, the rise is accelerating; in recent years the increase has averaged 4.8 mm per year.
The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite will therefore take over very soon to expand this dataset, an absolute reference for the study of climate. The mission includes two identical satellites; Copernicus Sentinel-6B will be launched in five years to take over. The mission therefore ensures data continuity until at least 2030.