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NASA Satellite To Measure Global Sea Level Rise

NASA Satellite To Measure Global Sea Level Rise

A satellite scheduled to launch from California later this month will measure sea level rise and provide other crucial data to scientists who study how global warming is affecting the Earth's oceans.

Melting ice has already caused sea levels to rise by about 8 inches since 1880, and the trend is accelerating. The Earth's oceans have soaked up the vast majority of the extra heat, and about one quarter of the extra carbon dioxide, that humans have generated by burning fossil fuels.

The new satellite, named Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich after the former director of NASA's Earth Science division, will measure sea level around the globe for the next five years. At that point a second satellite of the same type will take its place, providing scientists with a full decade of reliable data about the Earth's oceans. The mission is a collaboration between NASA and the European Space Agency.

"Sea level is continuing to rise and we can't stop measuring it," says Josh Willis, the mission's project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Every year, every decade, we're remaking the climate and raising sea levels higher and higher."

The satellite is the latest in a parade of sea level measurement missions going back to the early 1990s. The Sentinel-6 mission, with two state-of-the-art satellites over 10 years, is an indication of how much demand there is for reliable, high-resolution data about climate change.

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