Ocean Surface Currents: Towards Future Mission Concepts

Ocean Surface Currents: Towards Future Mission Concepts Ocean Surface Currents: Towards Future Mission Concepts
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    ESA Conference Bureau PO Box 299 2200 AG Noordwijk

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Ocean Surface Currents (OSC) are the coherent horizontal movement of surface ocean water with a given velocity and an upper boundary in contact with the atmosphere that persist over a geographical region and time period. Measurements of OSC are fundamental to our understanding of ocean circulation at all time and space scales yet remain one of the last physical ocean variables to be directly measured by a space mission at high fidelity and mesoscale resolution. Such measurements are required to drive scientific understanding of ocean/atmosphere surface dynamics, constrain and validate ocean forecasting systems, support marine industries, and provide government agencies sufficient information to develop and monitor marine policies. 


Key scientific aspects to consider include:

To monitor mesoscale ocean eddies from space requires a fine spatial resolution (e.g., 20 km or less) as well as a short temporal resolution (~ 5 days or less) especially in the coastal zones;

Development of eddy-resolving ocean and coupled ocean-atmosphere models requires global measurements at eddy-resolving resolution;

Mesoscale and sub-mesoscale dynamics of the OSC provide insight into the three-dimensional evolution of the upper ocean (important for ocean/atmosphere heat, momentum, moisture and gas exchange, the hydrological cycle and the biogeochemical ocean cycles) but have never been synoptically mapped before (in most areas no direct surface ocean current measurements have ever been made);

Ocean eddies (through their nonlinear interactions with the large-scale circulation and related transports) could play a more important role in the long-term climate variability than previously anticipated.

A variety of satellite missions and measurement techniques with complementary characteristics are available. Emerging technologies and novel mission concepts may open the door in the future to enhanced OSC observations at unprecedented resolutions. Against this background, the aim of this meeting is to:


Review scientific priorities, assess new technologies, discuss novel mission concepts and advance towards the definition of the next generation of ocean surface currents measurements from space.