International symposium on radar altimetry in Venice, 13 to 18 March 2006

The life of Venetians is strictly connected to the sea-level, which is one of the reasons why Venice was chosen to host the international symposium "15 Years of Progress in Radar Altimetry" a major scientific event on a class of space-borne sensor that precisely records the height of the global sea surface along with that of freshwater bodies, land surfaces and the icy cryosphere.

Organised by the European Space Agency (ESA) together with the French Space Agency (CNES), the '15 Years of Progress in Radar Altimetry' symposium is being held in Venice Lido from 13 to 18 March 2006.

The symposium takes place a few weeks after ESA received the green light from its Member States to build and launch a CryoSat recovery mission, Cryosat-2, which is expected to be launched in March 2009.

Thanks to its main instrument, the Synthetic Aperture Interferometric Radar Altimeter (SIRAL), CryoSat-2 will precisely monitor changes in the elevation and thickness of polar ice sheets and floating sea ice. These data will help explain the connection between the melting of the polar ice and the rise in sea levels and how this is contributing to climate change.

Radar altimeters were first flown in space in the 1970s, aboard NASA's Skylab, Geos 3 and Seasat. Initially these sensors were dedicated to the study of oceans, but as the technology improved so did their reach. The European experience in radar altimetry dates back to 1991, when ESA launched its ERS-1 satellite, which included the first Radar Altimeter (RA), precisely calibrated over the water of Venice. Since then, ESA has continued to accumulate homogeneous data by follow-up instruments aboard ERS-2 and Envisat satellites.

In 1992, as a support to the World Ocean Circulation Experiment program, NASA and CNES launched the Topex/Poseidon mission, fully optimised to measure the sea surface topography with an unprecedented accuracy of a few centimetres.

The Topex/Poseidon mission was

Contact: Simonetta Cheli
European Space Agency

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