The AUSWOT Working Group is a consortium of researchers and stakeholders that aims to develop capacity within the Australian scientific community to capitalise on the next generation of Earth-observing satellites, specifically the NASA/CNES Surface Water Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission ( This brief outlines the SWOT mission and the proposed goals of the Working Group. We invite all interested research partners to participate and contribute their expertise.

What is the SWOT mission?

The SWOT mission is a ground-breaking future satellite mission that will provide the first global survey of Earth’s surface water, observe fine details of the ocean’s surface topography, and measure how water bodies change over time. Scheduled for launch in September 2021, SWOT will be a powerhouse for monitoring Earth’s surface water inventory, ocean dynamics, and long-term environmental change.

SWOT will use pioneering wide-swath radar interferometry to retreive 2D maps of water elevation with a spatial resolution more than 10 times that of current satellites. For the first time, SWOT will enable monitoring of major lakes, wetlands, and rivers on land, and submesoscale eddies and currents (30-100 km) in the ocean, providing critical information on sea level change, freshwater resources, and upper ocean dynamics.

SWOT is being jointly developed by NASA and CNES with contributions from researchers around the world, including Australia. The Australian government and the Integrated Marine Observing System ( are investing in SWOT through a calibration/validation campaign at the Bass Strait altimeter validation site (led by Chris Watson, UTas and Benoit Legrasy, CSIRO) and delivery of daily gridded sea level anomalies via OceanCurrent (

SWOT Mission characteristics:

Budget: approximately US $1B. IMOS investment/co-investment: AU $6.3M

Target launch date: September 2021. Launch vehicle: SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket

Instruments: Ka-band interferometer, Microwave radiometer, Nadir altimeter

Sampling pattern: 120 km swath with 2 km grid (effective resolution ~15 km)

Cal/val orbit (0-90 days): 1-day repeat orbit at altitude of 857 km and 78° inclination

Science orbit (90 days-3 years+): 21-day repeat orbit at 891 km and 78° inclination

What are the goals of the AUSWOT Working Group?

The AUSWOT Working Group aims to support the SWOT mission and develop domestic capability in the field of wide swath satellite altimetry by addressing key issues relevant to the Australian community, including:

  • Collation of the latest international progress of the SWOT mission
  • National coordination of SWOT products for research/operational applications
  • Field campaigns of opportunity during fast-sampling cal/val phase (Appendix)
  • Synergistic observing platforms, e.g. HF radar, moorings, gliders, drifters
  • Mapping daily geostrophic currents from SWOT sea-surface height data
  • Developing a climatology of seasonal cycle and seasonal anomaly variability
  • Internal tides and internal wave variability from SWOT observations
  • Impact of submesocale variability on larval transport and fisheries productivity
  • Surface water budget for the Australian continent
  • Measurement of Antarctic sea-ice thickness/extent and snow/ice freeboard
  • Improvement of hydrological models over land and ocean
  • Validation and assimilation of river height / discharge observations
  • SWOT observation impact assessment for ocean forecasts
  • Representation of SWOT observation error in data assimilating models
  • Dispersal of marine plastics, oil spills, etc; search-and-rescue operations
  • Secondary data products, end-user requirements, QC, archiving and delivery
  • Building capacity for future missions e.g. SKIM (ESA) and COMPIRA (JAXA)

The Working Group aims to bring together teams of researchers and stakeholders to identify specific research goals related to the SWOT mission. Funding to support these research goals will be sought through the ARC Linkage scheme later this year.

We invite interested research partners and stakeholders from the University, Government, and Industry sectors to participate in the Working Group. Please send an expression of interest to Dr Shane Keating (

Upcoming AUSWOT events:
IMOS Annual Planning Meeting 12-14 Feb 2019, Brisbane
AUSWOT Working Group meeting May 2019, Sydney (TBC)
AMOS National Meeting 11-14 June 2019, Darwin
SWOT Science Team meeting 17-20 June 2019, Bordeaux


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