EUMETSAT’s Marine Applications Manager François Montagner talks assuring the quality of Sentinel-3 ocean data and what this means for applications and science.
François Montagner, a French national, graduated as an Engineer at Ecole Centrale de Paris. After working as an image processing engineer and expert in the medical imaging industry, he managed data processing projects at ESA’s European Space Research and Technology Centre, ESTEC, in the Netherlands. François joined EUMETSAT in 2003 to manage Low Earth Orbit product operations. Together with his team, he participated in the calibration and validation of EUMETSAT Polar System products, managing related quality monitoring and continuous improvements. In 2013, Francois became the Marine Applications Manager at EUMETSAT, overseeing the scientific aspects of the ocean remote-sensing and applications of our satellites and services.
ESA: Could you explain the benefits of the new Sentinel-3 marine products?
Sentinel-3 observations will provide essential input to a detailed 3D view of the global ocean, refreshed every three days. For example, observations of surface temperature by the Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer (SLSTR) and of sea level by the Synthetic Aperture Radar Altimeter (SRAL) are complementary, providing measurements of the heat stored in the column of water, from surface to bottom. Ocean colour observations from the Ocean and Land Colour Instrument (OLCI) accounts for life – plankton – and water quality, not just at the surface but tens of metres below. Since plankton drifts along currents, we see structures in the ocean colour and temperature images – eddies, plumes, streams – for which one of the main engines is sea level, revealed by altimetry. These observations are facets of physical, biological and chemical ocean processes that constitute the dynamics of the ocean. They are simulated by numerical models, for analysis, for prediction, for climate. Some such models are already operational, for instance by the Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Services. The operational data services based on Sentinel-3 are essential for these models, as they are for scientists to understand these ocean processes better.
ESA: What is your role in getting these products to the users?
Our job in the marine applications team is to ensure that the quality of the marine products is and remains the best possible. This is achieved by quality control, by calibration and validation of the products, and by continuous improvement and evolution. EUMETSAT is not a sole player in this: ESA and EUMETSAT have defined a mission performance framework that includes essential contributions from the science community inside and outside Europe and from European industry. We will work on our quality assessments, on coordinating and collecting those contributions, and on improving the products, based on what we – and the users – learn every day, not just in the first months of the mission, but for its whole duration.
ESA: How is EUMETSAT evolving its ocean portfolio?
As for other applications, EUMETSAT listens to its users. Our weather forecasting and climate monitoring users require more and more accurate and detailed knowledge of the ocean because of the many dynamic interactions between the atmosphere and the ocean. Also now as operator of Copernicus satellite missions, EUMETSAT starts serving more users interested in specific ocean products such as the Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Services. Feedback from all these users results in new requirements. We analyse those and establish the most effective way to respond, based on the agreement of our stakeholders. This includes improvements or additions to our operational ground segment, or seizing opportunities offered by EUMETSAT’S international partnerships. For instance, last year we started redistributing products of sea-surface temperature and ocean colour from the Suomi-NPP satellite to European users.
ESA: It’s EUMETSAT’s 30th anniversary this year. How do the ‘heritage’ satellites contribute to ocean monitoring?
Since the first Meteosat, all the EUMETSAT operational satellites have been monitoring the sea-surface temperature because of the impact on global weather patterns. These measurements are currently delivered as operational products from the Ocean and Sea Ice SAF. Winds at the ocean surface have a comparable influence, so the Advanced Scatterometer (ASCAT) instruments on the MetOp satellites have been specified and designed to measure these. ASCAT also provides measurements of sea ice. The products on temperature, wind and ice will continue into the era of Meteosat Third Generation and MetOp Second Generation, and, further operational products will appear thanks to new instruments and sensors.
This is one in a series of interviews with some of the key people that are involved in the Sentinel-3 mission. Please check back as further interviews will be added in over the coming weeks.