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July 13, 1992 (Phone: 201/453-1547) Keith Koehler GSFC Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va. (Phone: 804/820-1579) Christian Peterson CSIRO, Hobart, Tasmania (Phone: 02-20-6451) RELEASE: 92-109 OCEAN PROJECT TO IMPROVE FORECASTING AND MEASUREMENTS Scientists from the United States and Australia have completed a project that is expected to improve the reliability of ocean wave forecasting and improve measurements from the TOPEX/POSEIDON satellite. The U.S./French satellite, scheduled for launch in August 1992, will study ocean topography and circulation, leading to a better understanding of the oceans' role in global climate change. "What we need to know is how the wind energy is converted into waves and currents under all sorts of conditions, particularly during severe storms," said Dr. Chris Fandry of the Australia Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization's (CSIRO) Office of Space Science and Applications. "Only recently have oceanographers recognized the dominant role of waves in transferring energy from the wind to the
current," said Dr. Mike Banner from the University of New South Wales (UNSW). "Equally important is the strong influence of the waves on the winds. Understanding these processes is a high priority in this experiment."
- more -2As part of the Southern Ocean Waves Experiment (SOWEX), scientists observed how ocean winds and waves affect one another from June 6 through 18, 1992, off the coast of Australia. Instrument measurements were conducted from aircraft flying in winds ranging from light and variable to gale force. Data was collected in winds measuring 3.5 mph over calm seas to winds measuring 57.5 mph over seas with 26-foot waves. According to Dr. Ed Walsh of NASA's Wallops Flight Facility (WFF), Wallops Island, Va., this was the first time that wind stress and sea surface topography were measured simultaneously under such a wide range of wind speeds and wave heights. CSIRO instruments studied wind stress while the Goddard Space Flight Center's (GSFC) Scanning Radar Altimeter observed the sea's topography. "These data will significantly improve the performance of TOPEX/POSEIDON in the southern ocean and anywhere else there are high winds and waves," Walsh added. The research plane, owned by CSIRO, flew the experimenters as low as 40 feet and as high as 4,000 feet altitude. On most of the experimental flights the pilots flew at 50 feet altitude for more than 40 minutes each day. The information collected will improve the reliability of wave forecasting and help scientists understand more about climate change and the oceans and how the oceans affect our weather. The main instrument on the TOPEX/POSEIDON is a GSFC/WFF-managed radar altimeter developed by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Baltimore, Md. The goal of the
altimeters on the TOPEX/POSEIDON satellite is to measure mean sea level to an accuracy of a few centimeters. Walsh said wave depressions reflect an altimeter's radar signals better than the wave crests, causing an error in the measurement. To measure the magnitude of this bias in the range measurements during SOWEX, an instrument interspersing pulses similar to TOPEX/POSEIDON's was developed by Dr. Bob McIntosh of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. The data collected during the Australian project will aid scientists in developing models to improve measurements by the TOPEX/POSEIDON altimeters. The SOWEX was developed under the U.S.-Australia Cooperative Science Program and included investigators from the UNSW, CSIRO, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and GSFC. The U.S. investigators were funded by the National Science Foundation. TOPEX/POSEIDON is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. - end -