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Groundbreaking type of radar crucial to global study of planet's surface water

Groundbreaking new radar crucial to study of planet's surface water
Groundbreaking new radar crucial to study of planet's surface water 03:23

The first global study of all the surface water on Earth is now underway.

Last December, atop a Falcon 9 rocket, NASA launched a new satellite into orbit from Vandenberg Space Force Base in Santa Barbara County.

The goal of the mission is to gain a better understanding of the world's oceans, lakes, rivers and streams.

It's known as the Surface Water and Ocean Topography Mission or SWOT for short. The mission is a collaboration between NASA and the French Space Agency known as CNES.

"It's an amazing tool. It basically can look at how much water is changing over the entire goal," enthused meteorologist Marina Jurica. She was part of the team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory that was involved in the mission. She is also currently forecasting for our sister station KCAL News in Los Angeles.

Jurica explained how SWOT is different from previous satellite missions that surveyed the planet. It's all about a groundbreaking type of radar: an instrument known as the Ka-band Radar Interferometer or KaRin for short. There are many instruments included on the SWOT satellite. but KaRin makes a powerful new contribution to the science of climate change.

Some of SWOT's first findings have already been validated and released.

On October 30, 2023, NASA released this visualization of the global sea level data, which showed anomalies around the world with many areas higher than the global mean sea surface height.

A look at possible El Niño impacts on Bay Area weather this winter 02:26

NASA scientists believe sea levels are rising because of human-caused global warming. Ice sheets and glaciers are melting and the expanding water is warming.

Events such as the anticipated El Niño this winter could accelerate sea level rise by up to a foot. NOAA scientists among others forecast a strong El Niño is anticipated to continue thru the spring of 2024.

Jurica said that this data will help better inform the public and officials on the impacts of climate change, so that they can better prepare and plan, especially when it comes to sea level rise, and coastal communities.

CBS News Bay Area's chief meteorologist Paul Heggen interviewed Jurica about the new satellite mission and the capabilities of KaRin. The full interview is posted below.  

KCAL meteorologist Marina Jurica talks about new NASA satellite mission 09:40
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