Space-based oceanography revolutionized our knowledge of the oceans. Nothing of the kind has yet been undertaken for fresh water, a fundamental resource for humankind. Now, with the planned 2020 launch of the observation satellite, SWOT, the result of a partnership between the CNES and NASA, the space sector promises significant progress in this domain. The space missions Sentinel-1, 2 and 3 of the Copernicus program, and the Pleiades missions, are on it, too. Space hydrology is, thus, on the verge of considerably increasing our knowledge of the continental resources of our planet.
To understand better the role of space in the serious challenges facing us in terms of water, the CNES invites you to discuss with two of their experts, Selma Cherchali and Jean-François Crétaux. Join us next Tuesday, May 19th, at the café du Pont-Neuf in Paris, or on Twitter via #CNESTweetup.
Amazon Delta Landsat image (Credit: SWOT)
Fresh water represents only a tiny portion of our planet’s water resources. And our knowledge about it is insufficient. Climate change, deforestation, irrigation, dams: these are all factors whose true impact on freshwater resources is poorly understood. Until now, the application of the space industry to hydrology has been limited. “It’s as if we were going from a 2D visualization of a part of the continental resources to a 3D visualization of practically the whole thing,” sums up Jean-François Crétaux, a Science Lead on the SWOT mission, at LEGOS, the lab for geophysical and oceanographic space studies.
“Quite simply revolutionary”
The SWOT satellite will take measurements of the entire planet, and not just once, but several times every 21 days. “I choose my words carefully when I say that this project is quite simply revolutionary for hydrology,” says Selma Cherchali, head of continental environment and hydrology programs at the CNES. “SWOT will also let us measure temporal variations in the quantity of water and, so, its evolution over time.”
With climate change and the increasing global population, this information becomes crucial. “On the scientific level, collecting more data means developing better models, establishing new laws,” explains Jean-François Crétaux. “On the practical level, this translates into the ability to manage water resources better and help governments make better decisions.”
Thanks to these measurements, will scientists be able to predict certain natural disasters, like droughts or floods? How, exactly, is a satellite in orbit able to quantify the water on Earth? What other space missions will help us improve our hydrological knowledge? For the answers to these questions and your own, the CNES and MyScienceWork welcome you to the Space Tuesday discussion and #CNEStweetup, on May 19th! (7:30pm CET / 10:30am PDT)