Satellite observations of the oceans over the past three decades have truly revolutionized our understanding of global climate change through measurements and modeling of the ocean-atmosphere climate system. Global data sets of ocean surface topography available on time scales of hours to decades have been and will continue to be a vital resource for scientists, commercial partners, and policy makers in fields like oceanography, meteorology, ocean commerce, and disaster mitigation.
The nearly two decades of ocean altimetry observations have contributed to many fundamental advances in understanding global ocean circulation and its role in climate. The seasonal changes of ocean surface topography are mapped globally. These represent the most fundamental climate changes that ocean-atmosphere coupled models must be able to simulate before they are useful in other applications. Forecasting models have benefited from the data by improving the ability to predict events such as El Niño climate cycles. New understanding has been gained on the nature of long-period ocean waves that transmit climate signals across ocean basins. The best models for the tides in open ocean have been constructed using this data, and have lead to the discovery of the role of tides in deep ocean mixing, an important factor in determining the patterns of large-scale ocean circulation. The mean sea level of the global oceans, a key indicator of global climate change, is being monitored using ocean altimetry measurements.
Additionaly, there have been many social and economic benefits: