Joint NASA, CNES Water-Tracking Satellite Reveals First Stunning Views 

by | Mar 28, 2023

This visualization shows water features on New York’s Long Island–shown as bright pink splotches. Purple, yellow, green and dark-blue shades represent different land elevations, while the surrounding ocean is a lighter blue. The data was collected on Jan. 21, 2023, by SWOT’s KaRIn instrument. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech) 


The international Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission–led by NASA and the French space agency Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES)–sent back some of its first glimpses of water on the planet’s surface, showing ocean currents like the Gulf Stream in unprecedented detail. SWOT is also capturing views of freshwater features such as lakes, rivers and other water bodies down to about 300 feet (100 meters) wide. 

The satellite will measure the elevation of nearly all the water on Earth’s surface and provide one of the most comprehensive surveys yet of our planet’s surface water. SWOT’s measurements of freshwater bodies and the ocean will provide insights into how the ocean influences climate change and the water cycle; how a warming world affects water storage in lakes, rivers and reservoirs; and how communities can better manage their water resources and prepare for floods and other disasters. 


April Issue 2024