Brian Dunbar Headquarters, Washington, D.C. June 28, 1993 (Phone: 202/358-0873) Mary A.

Hardin Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. (Phone: 818/354-5011) RELEASE: 93-122 TOPEX POSEIDON MAPS PRECISE GLOBAL SEA LEVEL During the first 6 months of their mission, scientists using the U.S.French TOPEX/Poseidon oceanographic satellite have recorded the most accurate measurements to date of global sea level changes. The data will be used by oceanographers to calibrate the computer models that help forecast future climate changes. "The changes in sea level we have observed during the first 6 months from October 1992 to March 1993 are a combination of the effects of seasonal warming and cooling as well as wind forcing," said Lee-Lueng Fu, TOPEX/Poseidon Project Scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif. In the Northern Hemisphere, the sea level in the Gulf Stream off the United States East Coast and the sea level in the Kuroshio regions east of Japan dropped by more than 12 inches (30 centimeters). Most of this

drop was caused by the winter cooling of the ocean by the cold continental air mass blown off the North American and Asian continents, Fu said. In the Southern Hemisphere, a corresponding sea level rise occurred at similar latitudes which resulted from the warming of the summer atmosphere. "It takes an increase or decrease of 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) in the average temperature of a water column 50 meters (165 feet) deep to cause the sea level to rise or fall by 1 centimeter (0.4 inches)," Fu explained. -more-2The sea level change in the Northern Hemisphere is larger than that in the Southern Hemisphere because the larger land mass of the Northern Hemisphere creates colder continental air mass that cools the ocean water off the east coasts of North America and Asia. Seasonal changes in the trade winds caused a drop in sea level at the equator in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, Fu said. The rise in sea level in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean off the coast of South America was the remnant of the Kelvin wave pulses that began in December 1992. A Kelvin wave pulse creates a surge of warm water that moves eastward along the equator and can contribute to El Nino conditions. In the Indian Ocean, reversing seasonal monsoon winds caused a fall in sea level in the eastern and southern regions and a rise in sea level in the northwestern region. JPL manages the NASA portion of the joint U.S.-French mission

for NASA's Office of Mission to Planet Earth. Launched Aug. 10, 1992, the satellite is part of NASA's long-term effort to study Earth as a global environmental system. -endEDITORS NOTE: A computer-enhanced image to illustrate this story is available by contacting the Broadcast and Imaging Branch at 202/358-1900. Image numbers are: Color - 93-HC-307 B&W - 93-H-331