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Surface Water and Ocean Topography - SWOT

SWOT applications graphical abstract
SWOT technologies supporting applications
NASA and CNES, along with our Canadian and UK space agency partners, are developing a mission to make the first global survey of Earth's surface water. The SWOT mission with its wide swath altimetry technology will be able to cover most of the world's ocean and freshwater bodies with repeated high resolution elevation measurements, providing observations of fine details of the ocean's surface topography, and measuring how water bodies change over time.

NASA's Applied Sciences Program, along with the SWOT project team, are implementing a strategy that promotes applications research and engages a broad community of users in the uses of SWOT data. This mission is being developed in response to recommendations of the National Research Council Decadal Survey report (Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond, Space Studies Board, National Academies Press, 2007). There is a developing need for the applied science community of practice to become part of the flight mission development process, from inception through launch and operations. The end goal is to integrate this community that will eventually utilize science and data products in addressing societal issues and needs.

   If you think SWOT data products may be able to help you…

SWOT survey graphic

Take the SWOT Applications User Survey

SWOT User Survey Poster

SWOT User Survey Poster (PDF, 2.46 MB)

SWOT Applications Plan

SWOT Applications Plan (PDF, 864 KB)

EA Guide cover 50
SWOT Early Adopters Guide (PDF, 446 KB)

The goals of the SWOT applications program include:

  • Promote the use of SWOT products to a community of end-users and decision makers that understand SWOT and related mission capabilities and are interested in using SWOT data products in their application
  • Facilitate feedback between SWOT user communities and the SWOT project
  • Provide information on collaborations with different types of users and communities including those of ocean research, ice and drought studies, agricultural impacts, operational oceanography, and others
  • Design communication strategies to target and support requirements of the user community

Technical information about SWOT science and capabilities can be found here.

Visit the CNES Applications page on the Aviso web site.

Applications Working Group

The SWOT Applications Working Group (SAWG) is comprised of key applications-focused Project and science team members, as well as interested operational users and others with interests in applied remote sensing data for hydrology and oceanography applications. The SAWG will coordinate on SWOT applications activities and participate in applications-focused discussions, workshops and sessions at appropriate meetings. The working group will develop a SWOT Applications Plan, conduct applications workshops and tutorials, and coordinate engagement of SWOT applications early adopters.

The SAWG will be formed in order to develop plans for SWOT applications and identify early adopters and future potential users of SWOT data. The working group will have the following objectives:

  • Assess current applications benefits and requirements for SWOT data products
  • Develop a community of end-users that understand SWOT capabilities and are interested in using SWOT data products for their application
  • Target partners who can work with the SWOT project during the pre-launch period, particularly to assess impacts on their applications and data product formulation
  • Provide information about SWOT to a broad user community
  • SAWG activities will be carried out through public workshops, email and personal interactions.

The working group will develop a SWOT Applications Plan, conduct applications workshops and tutorials, and coordinate engagement of future SWOT Applications Early Adopters.

A list of the current members of the SWOT Applications Working Group is here (PDF, 46 KB).

Check this page frequently for updates and links to new features!

SWOT Applications Areas
  • Hydrology Applications
Floods graphic
Flooding hydraulics are well modeled but poorly measured by current methods. Foodplain water levels, for example, are rarely measured during the passage of a flood wave. Instead "wrack marks" are measured after the event has occurred, and the marks, which indicate some water level during the flood, are often considered to be the high water mark. Any dynamics (rising and falling of water) during the flood event are lost. SWOT aims to provide water level records for any flooding events that underlay a given satellite overpass. SWOT scientists will also be able to look at synergistic combinations of SWOT and other satellite datasets, modeling, and in situ observations to improve capabilities.
Drought graphic
Model predictions (and hence drought monitoring) can be greatly enhanced through assimilation of space-based surface water observations such as those from the future AirSWOT and SWOT missions. There may be opportunities to combine surface water measurements from AirSWOT and SWOT with other satellite data and modeling (i.e., GRACE) to improve observations and predictive capabilities.
Reservoirs graphic
Reservoir storage is poorly known and there is a lack of pervasive measurements documenting the water levels. Changes in reservoir storage may be known to governing agencies, but can be unknown to downstream neighboring communities and countries, making it impossible for communities downstream to adequately model future flow dynamics within their borders. SWOT is designed to accurately measure monthly to seasonal changes in reservoir storage. The information will be made available to water managers and other interested parties.
Transboundary Rivers graphic
Transboundary Rivers:
This topic is related to reservoir storage, but has additional important considerations. For example, the flow of water in some rivers may be governed by agreements between countries. However, monitoring this flow can be problematic for both technical and economic reasons. SWOT may help to overcome these potential roadblocks by uniformly measuring water surface elevations across national boundaries, globally, and on a regular basis by delivering global coverage approximately every 11 days.
River Commerce graphic
River Commerce:
River operators often need to know what water levels and expected flows are. With this information, boats and ships can modify onboard bathymetry data to know actual water depths. SWOT is designed to provide the first-ever measurement of along stream water surface elevations. Reliance on gauges is the current standard in river operations, but SWOT data would enable significant enhancement to these point-based gauge measurements by mapping water levels along any given stretch of river.
Insurance graphic
Floods result in tens of billions of dollars in property damage and business interruption globally each year. In Thailand alone, floods in 2011 resulted in an estimated $46 billion in economic loss, according to the World Bank. However, when flood hazards are known and adequate mitigation measures are implemented, flood losses can be reduced significantly. A recent study reported on in Engineering News Record found that sites throughout the U.S. that invested in simple flood preparations experienced 70% less property damage when flooding occurred. Achieving such benefits requires full understanding and characterizations of flood exposure. SWOT would provide critical information to help businesses assess flood risk and better prepare for protecting assets. Risk assessment methodologies used by property insurance companies increasingly will rely on accurate characterization of site conditions, including flood hazards, which can be provided by regional remotely sensed data.

  • Ocean Applications
Marine operators graphic
Marine Operations:
Marine operators such as marine transporters, commercial fishing vessels, oil companies with offshore production facilities, and recreational boaters, to name a few, will be able to use data from SWOT. The high-resolution information about ocean circulation and the finer scale resolution (estimated to be between 10 and 200 km over the ocean) can be highly beneficial to optimizing their operations in both coastal and open ocean environments.
Coastal Lisbon
Coastal Zone Management:
With its higher resolution data products, AirSWOT and SWOT will have the potential to provide key inputs for supporting real-time operational applications in the coastal zone. Within a few tens of kilometers from the coast, the new mapping capabilities provided by the future SWOT instruments, will improve knowledge of coastal tides, as well as smaller scale circulations features that impact the coastal zone. Specific applications in this area may include storm surge modeling, sediment transport, water quality issues, high-resolution nearshore circulation modeling, and others.
Related Links:
Climate and Weather graphic
Climate & Weather:
Better understanding of the finer scale movement of energy in the ocean, and of the vertical transport of carbon and heat is crucial for understanding the role of the ocean in regulating climate change. Accurate knowledge of large-scale circulation is also required. Higher SWOT measurement accuracy from submesoscale (less than 200 km) to global scale will support critical climate studies as we navigate into a future of a warmer world.
NOAA fish image
Fisheries operations can benefit from long term, regional observations of ocean conditions such as may be provided from remotely sensed data by observing and measuring physical properties of the ocean that influence fish habitats and migration. Altimetry data products, particularly the higher resolution SWOT data, can be combined with other sensor data (ocean color, wind measurements, ocean temperature, salinity) to provide critical information for support of good fisheries management practices, optimizing operations (bathymetry, weather), safety at sea and more.
Commerce graphic
The commercial sector is driven by the need to define and address profitable markets for data products that can be provided by remote sensing systems. An assessment of market opportunities for altimetry products for use by commercial organizations will need to focus on areas that offer a demand for data products that is large enough to support a profitable business. Data product development and analysis capabilities need to provide information products that are not readily available by other technologies. AirSWOT and SWOT may be able to fill significant gaps.
Related Links:


SWOT Applications-relevant Publications

  • Margaret Srinivasan, Craig Peterson, Alice Andral, Michel Dejus, Faisal Hossain, Jean-Francois Creteaux, Ed Beighley, "SWOT Applications Plan (PDF, 864 KB)", September 2014.

  • Srinivasan, M., Peterson, C., Callahan, P., Mission Applications Support at NASA: SWOT, Proceedings of the Symposium on 20 Years of Progress in Radar Altimetry, 24-26 September 2012, Venice, Italy (ESA Special Publication, in press).

SWOT Applications Presentations

The following documents provide some background information related to the mission.

  • Tamlin Pavelsky, Rosemary Morrow, Craig Peterson, Alice Andral, Emilie Bronner, Margaret Srinivasan "SWOT 101 (PDF, 5.6 MB)", January 2015.

  • Margaret Srinivasan, Craig Peterson, Alice Andral, Michel Dejus "1st SWOT Applications User Workshop introductory slides (PDF, 1.5 MB)", January 2015.

  • Margaret Srinivasan, Craig Peterson "SWOT Applications Poster (PDF, 4.63 MB)", 20 Years of Progress in Radar Altimetry, Venice, Italy, September 2012.

  • "The Proposed WatER Mission and Oceanographic Applications (PDF)." March 2006. (Link)

  • Eric Wood, "The WatER Mission." Integrated Global Observing Strategy Water Cycle Observations, Paris, March 2006. (Link)
  • "Hydrology From Space: NASA's Satellites Supporting Water Resources Applications." Univ. Texas, October 2014. (Link)

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