Surface Water and Ocean Topography


On December 12, NASA is planning to launch the Surface Water and Ocean Topography, or SWOT, satellite. A Falcon 9 rocket will blast the satellite into space from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The goal of this mission is to survey water across the globe. This will hopefully allow scientists to collect more information on how global warming is affecting the world’s water sources. 

The satellite was built as a collaboration between NASA and France’s space agency, CNES. In May of 2014, the administrator of NASA, Charles Bolden, and the President of CNES, Jean-Yves Le Gall, signed an agreement to begin building SWOT. The two institutions had started studying to prepare for the mission in 2009, after it was initially recommended by the National Research Council Decadal Survey in 2007. Although the plan originally was to launch the satellite in 2020, the spread of Coronavirus meant that it was delayed until this year.

SWOT will survey more than 90% of the planet and measure the height of water reservoirs. NASA states that the goal of the satellite is to provide “insights into how the ocean influences climate change; how a warming world affects lakes, rivers, and reservoirs; and how communities can better prepare for disasters, like floods.” Currently, only 15 percent of Earth’s water is being observed using satellites. Since the technology on SWOT will be capable of measuring the water with 10 times the resolution as the last mission did, it will be a valuable tool as scientists continue to learn more about climate change and how to stop it. NASA is planning to share the information collected with anyone who needs to keep track of water in their local area. This will aid water management around the world, allowing for more sustainable water distribution that will help postpone the immediate effects of climate change. Stay tuned for more updates on the satellite as we near its launch!

Works Cited

Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “SWOT.” NASA SWOT,

NASA. “5 Things to Know About How SWOT Will Look at the World’s Water – Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet.” NASA Climate Change, 16 November 2022,