Charting the Dynamic Waters: A Journey Through Continental Freshwater Space Altimetry Missions

In the ever-evolving landscape of Earth observation, the utilization of spaceborne altimetry missions stands as an indispensable tool in our quest to comprehensively monitor and manage the freshwater resources of our planet.

In the ever-evolving landscape of Earth observation, the utilization of spaceborne altimetry missions stands as an indispensable tool in our quest to comprehensively monitor and manage the freshwater resources of our planet.

From the trailblazing launch of TOPEX/Poseidon to the forthcoming frontier of missions like SWOT, these endeavors have propelled us forward, deepening our understanding of continental water bodies. Whether navigating vast oceans or tracing the intricate networks of rivers and lakes, these missions have left an indelible mark on freshwater research.

This abstract embarks on a journey through the diverse array of continental freshwater space altimetry missions, spotlighting their scientific marvels, operational prowess, and collective impact on freshwater monitoring and management globally.

So, brace yourself for an exhilarating overview of these missions, pulsating with scientific contributions, operational agility, revisit rates, and noteworthy decommissioning insights:

TOPEX/Poseidon (T/P)

Launched in 1992, this mission revolutionized ocean dynamics. It has extended its reach to monitor large inland water bodies until its decommissioning in 2006. With a revisit rate of approximately 10 days, its operational usefulness has been pivotal in freshwater studies.

ERS-2 (European Remote Sensing Satellite-2)

Launched in 1995, ERS-2 provided radar altimetry data for both oceans and inland water bodies, enriching our understanding of continental water dynamics until its farewell in 2011.

Jason series (Jason-1, Jason-2, Jason-3) by EUMETSAT

Continuing the legacy of TOPEX/Poseidon, the Jason series, with Jason-1 launched in 2001, Jason-2 in 2008, and Jason-3 in 2016, has been the torchbearer of precision. Also, it has extended observations over inland water bodies with a revisit rate of approximately 10 days.

ENVISAT (Environmental Satellite)

From its launch in 2002 until its decommissioning in 2012, ENVISAT provided radar altimetry data, enriching our understanding of continental water resources and their role in the hydrological cycle.

HY-2A/B (Haiyang-2A/B)

Chinese missions HY-2A (2011) and HY-2B (2018) contributed to ocean observation, albeit with limited data for inland water bodies compared to dedicated missions.

CryoSat-2

Launched in 2010 by the European Space Agency (ESA), CryoSat-2’s primary mission of polar ice monitoring also yielded insights into continental ice sheets and inland water bodies. This has shed light on hydrological processes in polar regions.

Altika

Operational from 2013 to at least 2017, Altika provided high-resolution measurements of ocean surface height. Furthermore, tt has extended its reach to monitor large inland water bodies.

SARAL (Satellite with ARgos and ALtiKa)

Launched in 2013, SARAL, a joint mission between ISRO and CNES, significantly enhanced our ability to monitor continental freshwater bodies.

GRACE and GRACE-FO

GRACE (2002-2017) and its successor GRACE-FO (2018 onwards) have been instrumental in precisely measuring variations in Earth’s gravity field. They offer invaluable insights into changes in water storage.

Sentinel-3

With Sentinel-3A launched in 2016 and Sentinel-3B in 2018, this mission’s radar altimeter data contributes to freshwater monitoring. It supports various applications from hydrological modeling to flood monitoring.

Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich

Launched in 2020, Sentinel-6 adds another dimension to our understanding of freshwater dynamics. It provides crucial data for hydrological modeling and water resource management.

SWOT (Surface Water and Ocean Topography)

Launched in December 2022, SWOT promises to revolutionize freshwater monitoring with high-resolution measurements of terrestrial water surfaces.

As we delve deeper into the realm of Earth observation, these missions serve as beacons of innovation. With upcoming missions like SMASH on the horizon, the journey continues, fueled by the relentless pursuit of knowledge. Moreover, there is a collective endeavor to safeguard Earth’s precious freshwater reserves for generations to come.

In the ever-evolving landscape of Earth observation, the utilization of spaceborne altimetry missions stands as an indispensable tool in our quest to comprehensively monitor and manage the freshwater resources of our planet.