The research missions pioneered through Jason-1 and Jason-2 have laid the scientific foundation for the operational Jason-3. In using the data for operational ocean prediction, one of the critical pieces of information required in all assimilation systems is the covariance structure, and the process of assimilating the altimeter data into the ocean models is no different. The ocean prediction process is quite different from the atmosphere from the perspective of the space and time scales of the processes, the data coverage and vertical distribution of data. For these reasons, careful consideration of the vertical covariances relating the surface height observation to the subsurface structure become very important. Efforts using historical data to construct these covariances have been a key piece in enabling the assimilation of altimeter data into ocean prediction models. The in situ ARGO float array provides a great expansion on these covariance structures, and when coupled with the operational satellite data enables the prediction of the ocean environment. The structure of these covariances are built and implemented into global and regional ocean prediction systems that are now run operationally.
The altimeter satellite data is the critical piece of information that enables ocean prediction. Without the satellite altimeter data, mesoscale ocean prediction has no skill. The upcoming Jason-3 altimeter will enable ocean monitoring and forecasting into the future.