CAPE CANAVERAL (CBSMiami) – On Saturday, NASA launched a new satellite into Earth’s orbit. Researchers are hopeful the mission will help them better understand rising sea levels.

Ben Hamlington is a research scientist with the Sentinel-6 mission. Hamlington says sea levels are now rising at an alarming rate.

“Sea level rise isn’t the same everywhere, some areas it’s going up faster than others,” he says.

The Sentinel-6 will use radar altimetry to provide near real time measurements of sea surface height, tracking changes down to mere centimeters. That high-precision data will help scientists better understand both the cause and effect of sea level rise around the globe.

“These satellite observations are really critical from a planning perspective, both to tell us how sea level is changing now and then using that understanding to infer how it might change in the future,” Hamlington says.

Sentinel-6 will also record wind speeds and study the atmosphere, which will help scientists track climate patterns and better forecast the weather.

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The satellite joins a fast-growing network of observatories from several space agencies working together to track climate change.

Researchers say understanding sea-level rise is among their most urgent tasks with the number of people living in coastal areas is expected to double by 2060.

Hamlington says, “As sea levels continue to rise, more and more people are going to realize the immediacy of the problem and begin to see the impacts of this.”

Sentinel-6 is set to carry out its mission for at least 5 years with its replacement, the Sentinel 6B, already slated to launch in 2025.

The Sentinel-6 launched from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base Saturday morning. The mission is a joint operation between NASA and the European Space Agency.

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