Will Rogers at the Center for a New American Security has recently published an interesting policy brief titled “Sentries in the Sky: Using Space Technologies for Disaster Response.” The piece makes a strong case for continuing to support these technologies for disaster response, which will incidentally have national security, environmental and climate co-benefits. On page four, Will discusses the utility of “altimetry sensors” in assessing sea level rise, which can be a factor in both sudden-onset disasters (such as tsunamis) and slow-onset disasters (such as coral bleaching and salination of water and soils). As Rogers states, data from these sensors “help scientists detect changes in sea level, which can be input into advanced models for everything from forecasting weather to projecting rises in sea level resulting from climate change.” Here’s an excerpt from this section of the brief:
MEASURING SEA LEVELS THROUGH ALTIMETRY SENSORS
Improving the use of space-based altimetry sensors may be a cost-effective way of complementing existing ground-based sensors by providing scientists and disaster management professionals with a wider area of coverage to monitor for tsunamis.
Altimetry sensors are currently deployed on a range of space-based remote sensing systems, particularly meteorological satellites. NOAA, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites and others rely on altimetry tools to measure atmospheric, weather and climate conditions. The sensors determine the distance between the satellite and the surface of the ocean by measuring the time it takes for a pulse sent from the satellite to hit the ocean surface and return to the sensor. These data help scientists detect changes in sea level, which can be input into advanced models for everything from forecasting weather to projecting rises in sea level resulting from climate change.