Roadmap to Space: Measuring Ocean Surface Vector Winds and Currents with a Ka-Band Doppler Scatterometer
Presenting Author: Alexander Wineteer
Organization: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Cal Inst Tech / NASA
Co-Author(s): Dragana Perkovic-Martin, Ernesto Rodriguez, Tamas Gal, Noppasin Niamsuwan, Raquel R. Monje, and Fabien Nicaise
Ocean vector winds and currents are closely coupled, essential climate variables that drive global weather events from El Nino to tropical cyclones. On smaller scales, surface winds and currents drive oceanic mixing that is important in cultivating algal blooms, spinning garbage collection gyres, and dispersing oil spills. With these thoughts in mind, the National Academy highlighted the importance of measuring ocean surface currents and winds by targeting them with an Explorer Class mission recommendation in the 2018 Earth Science Decadal Survey, specifically recommending the use of Doppler Scatterometry for their measurement. So too has NASA recognized the importance of ocean surface current and wind measurements through its support of DopplerScatt, an airborne Doppler scatterometer. DopplerScatt is designed to serve as a scientific instrument for the high-resolution, synoptic measurement of ocean surface vector winds and currents and as a technology basis for a future spaceborne mission. DopplerScatt is an excellent example of NASA instrument development progression. The instrument was originally funded under NASA's Instrument Incubator Program, during which it was successfully designed, built, and tested. The instrument is currently being made field-ready under the NASA Airborne Instrument Technology Transition program, after which it is slated to be the primary instrument during the upcoming NASA Earth Ventures Suborbital-3 Submesoscale Ocean Dynamics Experiment (S-MODE). These pathways have allowed for the maturation of the technology from an idea into an airborne instrument, operations, and finally, science – and hopefully to space, next. In this talk, we will present the science motivation behind measuring ocean surface vector winds and currents, the measurement principles behind Doppler Scatterometry, science results from DopplerScatt flights to date, the road so far, and what lies ahead.