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Remote sensing of the European seas: A historical outlook
Allan, T.D. (2008). Remote sensing of the European seas: A historical outlook, in: Barale, V. et al. (Ed.) Remote sensing of the European seas. pp. 23-32
In: Barale, V.; Gade, M. (Ed.) (2008). Remote sensing of the European seas. Springer Science+Business Media: Heidelberg. ISBN 978-1-4020-6771-6. XXII, 514 pp., more

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  • Allan, T.D.

    Satellite remote sensing of the sea surface started in 1978 with 3 NASA missions, which would demonstrate to a sceptical oceanographic community that useful measurements of colour, temperature, roughness and topography could be made from space. Today, there are over a dozen spacecrafts in orbit, routinely delivering a variety of such data products. Europe arrived comparatively late on the scene, launching its first satellite in 1991. Now, the European Envisat, launched in 2002, is considered one of the most sophisticated platforms in its kind. Significant contributions to our knowledge of ocean processes have been made using these, and other, tools. This work will continue, especially given the current emphasis on monitoring global climate change – in which, of course, the oceans play a vital role. Long-term time series of repeat measurements, for which satellites represent a powerful tool, are key elements of all future programmes. Shorter-term operational benefits will also be provided by dedicated European programmes. Over the years we have acquired a better understanding of the information content of signals reflected back to the satellite from the sea surface, and we know, more or less, how to translate these signals into a form that is useful to a wide range of end-users. Where we have been less successful is in delivering this information at a frequency to match the day-to-day requirements of marine operations. Coverage, speed, continuity, details – all these elements provide satellites with unique advantages. We have also come to accept that satellites on their own may not always provide the whole answer, and that a combination of satellite data, in situ observations, and forecasting models is often the best approach.

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