Accuracy of the mean sea level continuous record with future altimetric missions: Jason-3 vs. Sentinel-3a
Ocean Science, 2016, 12(1): 9-18.
<jats:p><p><strong>Abstract.</strong> The current mean sea level (MSL) continuous record, essential to understanding the climate evolution, is computed with the altimetric measurements of the TOPEX/Poseidon mission, succeeded by Jason-1 and later Jason-2. The accurate continuity of the record is ensured by the conservation of the "historical" TOPEX orbit as well as by calibration phases between the successive missions which enable a rigorous computation of their relative biases. In order to extend the current MSL record, Jason-3 will be the natural successor of Jason-2: on the same orbit with a calibration phase. Shortly after Jason-3, another altimetric climate-oriented mission, Sentinel-3a, will be launched on a different orbit. In this paper, simulated altimetric sea level data are used to study the sensitivity of the MSL continuous record to the change of the "historical" orbit for the new Sentinel-3a orbit. By estimating the impact of the absence of calibration phase on the MSL continuous record trend accuracy at the global and regional scales and the impact of the orbit change on the long-term continuity of this MSL record, this study shows that linking Sentinel-3a data instead of Jason-3 to the MSL continuous record would not meet climate user requirements regarding the MSL trend accuracy.</p>