Just off the California coast, a SpaceX Faclon 9 rocket blasted into orbit Sunday with a $364 million satellite, the latest in a series to measure the Earth’s sea levels. The satellite, dubbed Jason-3, will measure sea levels around the world, which many climate alarmists claim are rising faster even though traditional measuring devices say otherwise (see graph). Jason-3 is a combined effort of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the French space agency CNES and EUMETSAT, and the European agency that manages weather satellite data.
Dubbed an environmental research satellite, the satellite was boosted into orbit by Elon Musk’s private SpaceX company, which has taken over many duties previously done by NASA after the long-running shuttle program was dismantled and memorialized. You may remember Elon Musk as the guy who wanted to nuke the poles on Mars to kick-start terraforming the red planet.
One goal of this recent mission was to recover the Falcon 9’s first-stage rocket, an expensive piece of equipment that is normally burned up in the atmosphere. That part was a failure; after releasing its payload, it descended back to Earth, but it failed a return landing on a giant barge floating in the Pacific Ocean. The rocket tipped over and exploded (see video).
NASA also launched satellites in 1978 to measure global temperatures and said it was the gold standard that all agencies should adopt. But when the dataset showed no statistical warming for the last two decades, it was promptly ignored. Then activists took to YouTube with a new video trying to discredit the satellite readings. Will the same fate befall Jason and his orbital brothers if sea level rise doesn’t increase as predicted by global warming activists?
The Jason-3 is the fourth in a series of satellites that uses “state-of-the-art radar altimeters to measure the distance to the ocean surface below with extraordinary accuracy, allowing researchers to calculate ocean elevation, deep ocean temperatures, the velocity of currents, wave height and wind speed.” NOAA told CBS News that the Jason-3 is “designed expressly for monitoring sea level rise” and ocean topography.
Just like on land, the ocean’s surface topography has “highs and lows, similar to the hills and valleys of Earth’s land surface.” The satellites use sophisticated mathematical equations to measure the sea surface height relative to the Earth’s geoid (the hypothetical shape of the earth). For example, if there is a large mountainous region beneath the ocean, the sea surface above that area would “bulge”, making the sea surface higher in that area. Mapping the ocean’s unseen surface is important because this topography affects the ocean currents, heights, behavior, and more.
According to the satellite’s specs, instruments will collect data to help scientists and weather forecasters improve modeling of “extreme” weather from hurricanes to tropical storms. Incidentally, there has been no increase in extreme weather based on current data, but certain areas have become heavily populated in the last 50 years, regions that should never have been developed or inhabited.
Miller, who said isolated events like “heavy rainfall, flooding, tornadoes out of season, and droughts” may seem like isolated events but many, if not all, are connected to the ongoing naturally occurring El Niño event happening in the tropical Pacific Ocean. El Niños occur every 6-8 years and can affect weather all over the world. The current El Niño has been ranked as being in the top three because recordkeeping only began in the 1950s.
Over the next couple of weeks, the Jason-3 will be aligned in a nearly identical orbit as the Jason-2, launched in 2008. The two satellites will allow engineers to “precisely calibrate Jason-3’s instruments so its data are consistent with Jason-2’s.” Six months from then, the Jason-2 will be moved into a different orbit to improve global coverage.
According to Josh Willis, the Jason-3 project scientist at NASA, “Jason-3, much like its predecessor Jason-2, will be able to measure the height of the ocean in an area that’s about six miles across from 800 miles up with an accuracy of about one inch, so about the width of a quarter.” They believe that the data they get from the Jason-2 will “allow them to have accurate measures for ocean levels that are better than half a centimeter (cm).” Since 1992, NOAA says, global sea levels have risen about three millimeters (mm) per year, less than half a centimeter (10 mm = 1 cm). That’s smaller than what the satellites are able to accurately measure.
Sea level rises for a variety of reasons, including thermal expansion and the current warming of the planet since leaving the last glaciation period (ice melts on land, evaporates or trickles into the ocean). NOAA has been using satellites to measure ocean height (sea level rise) since 1992 from both the Topex/Poseidon (first satellite to map ocean topography with sufficient accuracy) and the subsequent Jason missions. Organizations also utilize the ARGO buoys, tidal gauges, the fossil record, marine sediments, and other techniques to get a more accurate measurement of Earth’s sea level history.
Willis says that sea level rise is the best yardstick for measuring human-caused global warming. He says the extra heat is being absorbed by the oceans, causing them to expand, as well as causing glaciers and ice sheets to melt. Yet the largest ice sheet on the planet covers the continent Antarctica. And it’s gained in size year over year since satellite measurements began in the 1970s. It also holds 90 percent of the world’s frozen water and shows no signs of melting. And ocean heat absorption is far less than what all the climate models predicted.
In fact, sea level rise has remained fairly constant for the past 2-4,000 years. As the current inter-glaciation continues, more land ice will continue to melt (raising global sea levels) as it has in the past, before we enter the next glaciation (based on past occurrences). The worst-case scenario shows an increase of half a meter by the end of this century, says Richard Tol, a former UN IPCC Lead Author. He says that’s roughly “from the ground to our knees.” Tol believes that poverty is a bigger problem than rising sea levels and that “dirty air causes roughly four million deaths each year.”