Main Requirements

The main requirement for operational oceanography is to have a long-term, continuous and near real time access to the core operational satellite observations of sea level, SST, ocean colour, sea ice, wave and winds. For a given parameter, this generally requires several satellites flying simultaneously to get sufficient space and time resolution. The main requirements can be summarized as follows (e.g. Le Traon et al. 2006; Clark and Wilson 2009):

• In addition to meteorological satellites, a high precision (AATSR-class) SST satellite is needed to give the highest absolute SST accuracy. A microwave mission is also needed to provide an all weather global coverage.

• At least three or four altimeters are required to observe the mesoscale circulation. This is also useful for significant wave height measurements. A long-term series of a high accuracy altimeter system (Jason satellites) is needed to serve a reference for the other missions and for the monitoring of climate signals.

• Ocean colour is increasingly important, in particular, in coastal areas. At least two satellites are required.

• Two scatterometers are required to globally monitor at high spatial resolution the wind field.

• Two SAR satellites are required for waves, sea-ice characteristics and oil slick monitoring.

These minimum requirements have been only partly met over the past ten years. Long-term continuity and transition from research to operational mode remains a major challenge (e.g. Clark and Wilson 2009).

Specific requirements for altimetry, SST and ocean colour are discussed in the following sections.

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