I’m a climatologist at the French space agency (CNES). As a student I studied physics and mathematics and then, after a PhD in oceanography, I joined CNES when I was about 25 years old. At CNES my first mission was astrodynamics, computing orbits for satellites. And then I switched to the analysis of satellite data for the understanding of climate change.
My work at CNES consists of analysing satellite data to monitor and understand climate change. I am particularly interested in the changes in the Earth’s water and energy cycles in response to climate change, and I analyse the changes in these cycles with satellite altimetry techniques and space geodesic techniques.
One important aspect of changes to the Earth’s water and energy cycles is the rise in sea level; this threatens millions of people, so our research has a special focus. The rise in sea levels is alarming. Right now sea levels are rising much faster than before, about five to 10 times faster than what the earth has experienced over the past 5-6000 years. This is because of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Because of these emissions, the infrared radiation of the Earth gets trapped and causes global warming. Most of the heat generated in global warming enters the ocean. As heat enters the ocean, the sea water expands making sea levels rise. Part of this heat has also entered the cryosphere melting the glaciers, but also melting ice sheets. This is also making sea levels rise.
Space techniques are absolutely essential in understanding the current rise in sea levels and we use space technologies to directly monitor this, but also to monitor coastlines for rises in sea level.
We use satellite altimetry radar developed by CNES and NASA to observe the current rapid rise, and we use space geodesics to observe the causes of rising sea levels, such as ice melting from the glaciers and ice sheets. Space technologies also enable us to evaluate the impact of rising sea levels. High resolution technology in particular enables us to estimate changes to local sea levels along the coast, and to assess the risk for coastal communities. We use interferometry radar with satellites, like SWOT that will be launched next year, to estimate local sea level changes at very local places like towns or even villages. On the continent, we can use high resolution imagery to evaluate the response of the coastline to changing sea levels, and also to evaluate floods during extreme events.
This exhibition, Space for our Planet, is an opportunity to send a message to anybody listening. It is a message from scientists in the satellite community working on climate change.
When we work with satellite data, we realise that climate change is on-going. All our simulations in models show that climate change will last for hundreds of years or even more. We need to act as soon as possible, the sooner the better if we want to reduce the impact for the generations to come.
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