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SWOT mission graphic

Surface Water and Ocean Topography

Phase: Under Study

Launch Date: 2020

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Program(s):Earth Systematic Missions

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The Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission will contribute to a better understanding of the world's oceans and its terrestrial surface waters. Our understanding of the oceanic circulation at mesoscales and smaller, where most of the ocean's kinetic energy and its dissipation takes place, is poor. Likewise, the role of internal tides as sources of mixing as well as coastal processes such as upwelling, jets, and fronts are not well understood. Given our basic need for fresh water, the most important hydrologic observations that can be made in a basin are of the temporal and spatial variations in water volumes stored in rivers, lakes, and wetlands. Unfortunately, we have poor knowledge of the global dynamics of terrestrial surface waters as well as their interactions with coastal oceans in estuaries. The SWOT mission and its wide-swath altimetry technology will be a means of completely covering the world's oceans and freshwater bodies with repeated elevation measurements. SWOT is an international partnership between NASA and the French Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) with contributions from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).