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The Roles of Satellites in Marine Meteorology and Operational Oceanography
Ratier, A.; Colton, M. (2004). The Roles of Satellites in Marine Meteorology and Operational Oceanography. JCOMM Technical Report 27: 1-22
In: JCOMM Technical Report. World Meteorological Organisation: Geneva, more

Also published as
  • Ratier, A.; Colton, M. (2004). The Roles of Satellites in Marine Meteorology and Operational Oceanography, in: Proceedings of the International Seminar to Celebrate the Brussels Maritime Conference of 1853: An Historical Perspective of Operational Marine Meteorology and Oceanography Under the High Patronage of HM King Albert II of Belgium, Residence Palace, Brussels, Belgium, 17-18 November 2003 [CD-ROM]. JCOMM Technical Report, 27: pp. 1-22, more

Available in  Authors 
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Document type: Conference paper


Authors  Top 
  • Ratier, A.
  • Colton, M.

    In 1853, when Lt. Matthew Fontaine Maury of the United States Navy proposed his vision for “establishing a uniform system of meteorological observations at sea and concurring in a general plan of observation on the winds and currents of the ocean”, sparse observations were the only recorded source of information. This vision laid the foundation of operational meteorology and oceanography, with the establishment of the World Metorological Organisation, and became even more universal with time, with the shift of emphasis from observations to information and knowledge on the ocean and its increasing demand for international cooperation and capacity building. Satellite programmes are no exception, as international commitments were crucial to establish the ERS and Topex-Poseidon missions in the late seventies as corner stones of the WOCE observing strategy, long after the pioneering Seasat and Nimbus-7 missions.Pre-operational ocean satellites are now providing global maps of ocean surface wind and topography in quasi-real time, and have de facto contributed to “establishing the uniform system of meteorological observations” called for by Lt. Maury. Providing also information on sea surface temperature, sea state and chlorophyll, they are now part and parcel of the ocean information systems operationally used for monitoring or forecasting weather, sea state, pollution and marine ecosystem dynamics, ocean circulation, seasonal and climate variability. Satellite-based data collection systems play also an increasingly important data integration role in merging all types of in situ data in the open ocean. In the context of the ongoing transition from research to operational oceanography, the main challenge of the next decades will be to establish, maintain and gradually improve a fully operational satellite system for the observation of key ocean parameters. In practice, this could be achieved by the combination of an expansion of the planned meteorological missions, the implementation of dedicated satellites whenever necessary and allocation of a fraction of the resources of selected high-resolution imagery missions to marine meteorology. However, this will not be possible without international co-operation, considering the need for sharing satellite costs and resources, leading edge technology and know-how, and planning transitions from research to operational missions. Therefore, Lt Maury’s vision remains current, providing the driving principle of initiatives like the Integrated Global Observing Strategy-Partnership, the recent Earth Observations Summit or the European Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES).

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