On Friday, NASA launched the Ocean Surface Topography Mission/Jason 2 satellite into orbit to begin a detailed study of ocean currents, sea-surface height, and surface topology. Scientists hope to use the data gathered by Jason 2 in order to better understand weather patterns and global warming
. Further details about the mission objectives
(PDF) are also available. Quoting NASA's press release:
"Combining ocean current and heat storage data is key to understanding global climate variations. OSTM/Jason 2's expected lifetime of at least three years will extend into the next decade the continuous record of these data started in 1992 by NASA and the French space agency Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales, or CNES, with the TOPEX/Poseidon mission. The data collection was continued by the two agencies on Jason 1 in 2001. Compared with Jason 1 measurements, OSTM/Jason 2 will have substantially increased accuracy and provide data to within 25 kilometers (15 miles) of coastlines, nearly 50 percent closer to shore than in the past."