NASA, together with its European partners, has mapped almost all bodies of water on earth for the first time. The so-called SWOT mission is intended to enable reliable forecasts of changes in freshwater and saltwater as well as the development of global temperatures and climate change.
Weather forecasts play an important role for many people. But how do weather forecasts actually work? It is made possible by dozens of satellites that continuously collect data and send it to the earth’s surface. But any model needs high-quality underlying information to predict events as accurately as possible.
The US space agency NASA therefore started a project with the French, Canadian and English authorities called SWOT – long “Surface Water and Ocean Topography”.
NASA: SWOT mission maps almost all bodies of water in the world
The aim of the program is to record all water flows on our planet. This includes data such as the depth and size of oceans, rivers and lakes. The data should then provide information about how our water landscape is changing. Rivers with a width of more than 100 meters and lakes with a surface area of 62,500 square meters or more are examined.
Ideally, the images are about ten times higher resolution than previous images. And that in turn enables weather forecasts. Because these can be set up much more reliably if it is known where the water comes from and where it usually flows.
Information enables better weather forecasts
In addition to forecasting the weather, warning the population of floods or other natural disasters should also improve. In addition, shipping can use the information to rule out possible risks. Because if water depths are known, fewer ships are stranded on sandbanks or dry waters.
The mission started recently and will probably provide the necessary data in the foreseeable future. Because only if we continuously explore our planet can we understand it and make the best of the information available to us. It could even save lives one day.