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Sea State and Rain: A Second Take on Dual-Frequency Altimetry

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TOPEX and Jason were the first two dual-frequency altimeters in space, with both operating at Ku- and C-band. Thus, each gives two measurements of the normalized backscatter, σ0, (from which wind speed is calculated) and two estimates of wave height. Departures from a well-defined relationship between the Ku- and C-band σ0 values give an indication of rain. This study investigates differences between the two instruments using data from Jason's verification phase. Jason's Ku-band estimates of wave height are ∼1.8% less than TOPEX's, whereas its σ0 values are higher. When these effects have been removed the root mean square (rms) mismatch between TOPEX and Jason's Ku-band observations is close to that for TOPEX's observations at its two frequencies, and the changes in σ0 with varying wave height conditions are the same for the two altimeters. Rain flagging and quantitative estimates of rain rate are both based on the atmospheric attenuation derived from the σ0 measurements at the two frequencies. The attenuation estimates of TOPEX and Jason agree very well, and a threshold of−0.5 dB is effective at removing the majority of spurious data records from the Jason GDRs. In the high σ0 regime, anomalous data can be caused by processes other than rain. Consequently, for these low wind conditions, neither can reliable rain detection be based on altimetry alone, nor can a generic rain flag be expected to remove all suspect data.
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Keywords: Jason; TOPEX; dual-frequency altimetry; rain rate; rain-flagging; sigma0; wave height; wind speed

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Laboratory for Satellite Oceanography Southampton Oceanography Centre Southampton Hants UK

Publication date: 01 January 2004

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