Expanding Altimetry Outreach: An Investigation to Federate and Promote Outreach for the SWOT Mission

PI: Vinca Rosmorduc (CLS, Space Oceanography Division)

Co-Is: Pascal Bonnefond (OCA/CERGA - France), Emilie Bronner (CNES - France), Danielle De Staerke (CNES - France), Caroline Maheu (AKKA Technologies - France), Nicolas Picot (CNES - France)

Collaborators: Annie Richardson (Nasa/JPL - USA) Margaret Srinivasan (Nasa/JPL - USA)


For more than twenty years, Topex/Poseidon, Jason-1 and OSTM/Jason-2 mission outreach have been developed both sides of the Atlantic. Cryosat, Saral, and in the future Sentinel-3, Jason-3, Jason-CS… are in turn opening new avenues for outreach and applications.

SWOT is even more in need of outreach, to detail its characteristics to data users, and to a broader public, including decision-makers, since it includes many very new features.

We propose to use the possibilities of the SWOT mission to continue to expand outreach, be it educational & public outreach, or application outreach, to new publics, and new subjects, including and especially hydrology. For that, we will build upon existing material and new Investigators works, develop new link lists, and also new material when none is available.

Particular attention will be given to the building of educational material at different level (including undergraduates and graduates, but also levels below). Adaptation of existing data visualization interactive tools to education could also be investigated, in order to familiarize the young to the use and importance of remote sensing data such as altimetry. Updates, new developments and adaptations of Toolbox and tutorial can also be envisioned in an outreach and education point of view.


Main objectives of this investigation are:

  • To foster the development of SWOT outreach activities. Outreach is an important part of altimetry missions. However, much progress can still be done, especially in term of science team member involvement. New outreach products can also be developed; existing ones can be improved or adapted for different audiences (different levels of understanding or field of interest, as well as different languages).
  • To federate outreach efforts. There are outreach initiatives around the world, and there will be even more about SWOT. We would like to make as many people as possible aware of them. The goal is to gather together all those who have or who wish to disseminate knowledge of the SWOT mission to inform them of actions which have succeeded in making an impact, using also the historical records of conventional and SAR altimetry.
  • To promote outreach efforts. Outreach participants need to get feedbacks, and see their efforts highlighted. Outreach efforts must be promoted, in order to get more science team members involved.

We propose to support Investigators wishing to develop their own outreach material or to contribute to the joint effort.


Opening a Broad Access to SWOT Mission and Applications

Taking Advantages of the Web

Past experience and considerations show that such goals as described above can be reached by the development of a web site and/or web pages. Hardcopies and memorabilia can still be interesting for some occasions, but the main sustained effort must be on the web (including social networks).

New technologies must be envisioned to better bring to light altimetry and its applications. New and popular web-based tools will be envisioned.

More Background Material Provided

Presentations, schemes and slides could be made available to users, with in mind the teachers and professors, but also lecturers (including for general public lectures). This could help PIs to get involved in outreach by providing them with ready to use material that they can adapt to their subject(s). It is also a strong vector of promotion of the mission, since between two topics, the one with readily available and usable material will be more promoted than the other.

Create Visuals, Images and Animations

An interesting effort with respect to the general public and the media would be in developing easy-to-understand visuals and/or animations to explain SWOT and its applications. Moreover, beautiful images, if not always the best for scientific studies, are often a good attention-catcher. An effort in generating nice images from data prefigurating SWOT data should be developed and sustained, with an outreach point of view. Animations can also be generated, to simulate SWOT vision of a phenomenon in movement.

Adapting Material to Audience

General Public, Around the World

The need could arise to adapt existing material to a particular audience. We are thinking to translations, in Spanish, French, English – or another language (e.g. Portuguese for use in Brazil). Adaptation can be also done on data visualisation tools, to able their use by teacher or even students.

Developing a Toolbox with Outreach Capabilities

The Basic Radar Altimetry Toolbox was developed for ESA and CNES with the aim of facilitating access to and use of altimetry data.

A toolbox could be expended, adapted and enhanced for different audiences, and uses, enabling the use of both SWOT data in their fullest capabilities and historical altimetry records.

We think of use in an Educational frame, where simplification would be in order for the software, or strengthening of the didactical side of the tool for new users, expanding the fitness for use for some applications (e.g. hydrology). For example, an interactive link between Examples of Use of the data proposed in a Tutorial and the Toolbox software itself would be interesting in that point of view.

Enhancing the Visibility and Sharing of Outreach Activities

Of SDT Members Inside SDT

The "outreach product showcase" that begun at the 2006 meeting of the OST/ST was the occasion for OST/ST members to present their outreach activities in a short, easy, format (one slide, two minutes to present it and/or a place on the poster session to put the printed slide). It gave outreach session attendees a quick-view of outreach activities, including new things; things that, for example would not have been deemed big enough for a full-scale talk.

We plan to continue such a showcase during next OST/ST outreach splinter sessions, and hope to be thus able to constitute a sort of PI outreach activities list, to give a better view on existing outreach efforts. Moreover, a visibility on the web, maybe as a database could give outreach activities a bigger impact.

Of SDT Outreach with Respect to an Hydrology Community

Hydrology uses several techniques to extract information and data. Moreover, hydrology has an real and immediate impact on the general public’s life. Hydrology outreach can benefit from exchanges between the SWOT community and the others. Participating to general hydrology/geophysics meeting with presentation of what is done in SDT outreach, or to hydrology-related projects with an outreach component can help federate outreach efforts on similar subjects.

Of SDT Outreach with Respect to an Ocean Science Community

Ocean is a whole, whatever the technique to observe it, and ocean outreach can benefit from exchanges between the SWOT community, the altimetry community and the others. Participating to general ocean/geophysics meeting with presentation of what is done in SDT outreach, or to ocean-related projects with an outreach component can help federate outreach efforts on similar subjects.

Anticipated Result

To build an outreach strategy over several years, and thus reach the Saral and Jason-3 launch with a complete set of outreach material, adapted for various audiences, and to begin preparing for the next generation of missions and applications, in particular SWOT.

Significance of the Investigation

Outreach is a strong component of the CNES/NASA altimetry missions, and has been so from the very start. Outreach aims to develop, encourage and raise awareness of the achievements of space programs, here the SWOT mission, through outreach actions and educational programs, by informing persons likely to use and exploit results, as well as decision-makers and elected representatives, and by communicating to scientists working in related disciplines.

The reasons to outreach are manifold:

  • To inform the public, who is ultimately paying for such satellite missions. It also helps to foster the development of an informed and environmentally aware public. Both formal and informal educational activities are developed, to enhance and broaden scientific literacy and public understanding of our environment.
  • To increase use of altimetry:
    • Getting new users. By informing about the techniques and its applications (scientific as well as operational ones), new users are reached, and become aware of altimetry missions and of their possibilities. Thus, from the 35 PIs getting the data at the beginning of the Topex/Poseidon mission, we reached more than 5,000 registered altimetry data users. First users were mostly ocean dynamics experts; now biologists, chemists, climatologists, etc. retrieve and use those data. Number of countries, including developing countries have also increased, thanks chiefly to on-line information and data diffusion. Now with SWOT, we start back from a small group of users, and one of the challenges will be to ensure maximum use of its data, so as to make the most of the investment done in the mission.
    • Promoting "practical" applications of the data. The very existence of altimetry, data availability and their potential uses are not evidence. Informing potential users is thus necessary, to help them take into account this techniques. Operational projects, such as MyOcean, Mercator and all the Godae projects, are reaching new users. Indirect though they may be, they really need continuous ocean surface topography data, and this with a good coverage. Since this means at least two satellites in flight at the same time, promoting practical applications is also a promotion of the very existence of several missions. Among those "practical" applications, we can list:
      • Climate forecasting (El Niño and other oscillations, seasonal)
      • Climate change
      • Hurricane intensification
      • Hydrology
      • Environment protection
      • Biology and coastal applications
      • Navigation and marine security
  • To help ensure the continuity of the missions. Having more and more users is a good point to help ensure such continuity as is needed, but it is necessary to have this increase known. Outreaching is doing precisely that, towards varied audiences. The importance of the SWOT mission in everyday life, the impact of more than twenty years of altimetry data, as well as the scientific advances made with it are the main points of interest. Outreach will, in the next years, insists strongly on the need for the continuity of the altimetric dataset, and the need of more than one mission in flight at the same time.

Management and Cost Plan

Management Plan

The OST outreach team will serve as a core organization for this proposal. Regular rendez-vous at the Science Team meetings makes it a concrete basis for such coordination as will be necessary to realize the proposed investigation.

Contacts with PIs and users will be made during the regular course of our work. We plan to use the OSTST and SDT mailing list hosted by JPL to make call for contribution and publicize our work.

Cost Plan

No investigation costs are asked for, since project funding exists. Moreover, it will be indirectly funded by PIs that have included an outreach part in their investigation plan.