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High-resolution satellite measurements of coastal wind field and sea state

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Methods to derive wind speed and sea state by simple empirical models from synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data are presented and applied for use in high-resolution numerical modelling for coastal applications. The new radar satellite, TerraSAR-X (TS-X), images the surface of the sea with a high resolution up to 1 m. Therefore, not only wind information and integrated sea state parameters but also individual ocean waves with wavelengths down to 30 m are detectable. Two-dimensional information on the ocean surface retrieved using TS-X data is validated for different oceanographic applications: derivation of finely resolved wind fields (XMOD algorithm) and integrated sea state parameters (XWAVE algorithm). Both algorithms are capable of taking into account fine-scale effects in coastal areas. Wind and sea state information retrieved from SAR data are applied as the input for a wave numerical spectral model (wind forcing and boundary condition) running at a fine spatial horizontal resolution of 100 m. Results are compared to collocated buoy measurements. Studies are carried out for varying wind speeds and comparisons against wave height, simulated using original TS-X-derived wind data, showing the sensitivity of waves to local wind variation and thus the importance of local wind effects on wave behaviour in coastal areas. Examples for the German Bight (North Sea) are shown. The TS-X satellite scenes render well-developed ocean wave patterns of developed swell at the sea surface. Refraction of individual long swell waves at a water depth shallower than about 70 m, caused by the influence of underwater topography in coastal areas, is imaged on the radar scenes. A technique is developed for tracking wave rays depending on changes in swell wavelength and direction. We estimate the wave energy flux along wave tracks from deep water to the coastline based on SAR information: wave height and wavelength are derived from TS-X data.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: German Aerospace Center (DLR),Remote Sensing Technology Institute, Wessling,82234, Germany

Publication date: December 10, 2012

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