March 30, 2017


On the French side, SWOT has received funding from the French government’s PIA future investment programme due to its significant potential for applications. 

The downstream SWOT programme has been set up to prepare for, support and promote the use and exploitation of SWOT imagery and thus foster the development of a downstream sector for the two themes covered by the SWOT mission: oceanography, which already has a very active downstream community, and hydrology for which the downstream sector still needs to be structured.

This downstream SWOT programme can be divided into four parts:

  • Thematic: specify and validate added-value products and services for oceanography and more particularly for hydrology to which SWOT should be making a significant contribution
  • Methodology: definition and development of tools to facilitate the use of future SWOT imagery and data
  • Applications: promote tools ,  develop and involve service providers in the development of applications for oceanography and, more especially, hydrology
  • Outreach: Inform, raise awareness, train and accompany stakeholders so that they can create new products and services; support fundamental and applied research


SWOT will significantly improve the scale of observed phenomena, which will rise from 100 km with conventional altimeters to 15 km. These performances will allow to identify coastal currents and marine mesoscale eddies, measure global ocean altimetry for a better quality of high resolution bathymetry. 

Close knowledge of the oceans has a direct effect on the reliability and relevance of seasonal weather forecasts, including cyclones and floods. It will enable applications such as navigational aids and assistance for search and rescue missions at sea, the study of coastal erosion phenomena, and support for fishermen or offshore oil platforms.


SWOT is set to revolutionise hydrology and water resource management. SWOT will directly provide the water heights of bodies of water with a surface area of more than 250 m x 250 m and the water heights and discharge of rivers wider than 100 m (with the aim of lowering this later to 50 m)

SWOT data will thus be used to measure variations in global water reserves, monitor the discharge of the planet’s major rivers and help improve flood forecasting systems.

Using a combination of SWOT and other data, it will be possible to improve current services and to create new water resource management services. SWOT data may be combined, for instance, with other satellite observations, weather forecasts, hydrological and hydraulic river models to significantly improve flood forecasting systems.

SWOT hydrology applications cover the following needs:

  • Better understanding of the water cycle
  • Better modelling of floods
  • Hydroelectric production
  • Aid for river navigation
  • Management of cross-border waters
  • Freshwater supplies for agriculture, industry and urban needs
  • Integrated management of estuaries
  • Preventing the propagation of epidemics


  • Selma Cherchali
  • Alice Andral