The tools of geodesy have the potential to transform the Ocean Observing System. Geodetic observations are unique in the way that these methods produce accurate, quantitative, and integrated observations of gravity, ocean circulation, sea surface height, ocean bottom pressure, and mass exchanges among the ocean, cryosphere, and land. These observations have made fundamental contributions to the monitoring and understanding of physical ocean processes. In particular, geodesy is the fundamental science to enable determination of an accurate geoid model, allowing estimate of absolute surface geostrophic currents, which are necessary to quantify ocean’s heat transport. The present geodetic satellites can measure sea level, its mass component and their changes, both of which are vital for understanding global climate change. Continuation of current satellite missions and the development of new geodetic technologies can be expected to further support accurate monitoring of the ocean. The Global Geodetic Observing System (GGOS) of the International Association of Geodesy (IAG) provides the means for integrating the geodetic techniques that monitor the Earth's time-variable surface geometry (including ocean, hydrologic, land, and ice surfaces), gravity field, and Earth rotation/orientation into a consistent system for measuring ocean surface topography, ocean currents, ocean mass and volume changes. This system depends on both globally coordinated ground-based networks of tracking stations as well as an uninterrupted series of satellite missions. GGOS works with the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) and space agencies to ensure the availability of the necessary expertise and infrastructure. In this white paper, we summarize the community consensus of critical oceanographic observables currently enabled by geodetic systems, and the requirements to continue such measurements. Achieving this potential will depend on merging the remote sensing techniques with in situ measurements of key variables as an integral part of the Ocean Observing System.
EPIC Alfred Wegener Institut