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An Improved Calibration of Satellite Altimetric Heights Using Tide Gauge Sea Levels with Adjustment for Land Motion

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Several major improvements to an existing method for calibrating satellite altimeters using tide gauge data are described. The calibration is in the sense of monitoring and correcting temporal drift in the altimetric time series, which is essential in efforts to use the altimetric data for especially demanding applications. Examples include the determination of the rate of change of global mean sea level and the study of the relatively subtle, but climatically important, decadal variations in basin scale sea levels. The improvements are to the method described by Mitchum (1998a), and the modifications are of two basic types. First, since the method depends on the cancellation of true ocean signals by differencing the altimetric data from the tide gauge sea level time series, improvements are made that produce a more complete removal of the ocean signals that comprise the noise for the altimetric drift estimation problem. Second, a major error source in the tide gauge data, namely land motion, is explicitly addressed and corrections are developed that incorporate space-based geodetic data (continuous GPS and DORIS measurements). The long-term solution, having such geodetic measurements available at all the tide gauges, is not yet a reality, so an interim solution is developed. The improved method is applied to the TOPEX altimetric data. The Side A data (August 1992–February 1999) are found to have a linear drift component of 0.55 + / 0.39 mm/yr, but there is also a significant quadratic component to the drift that is presently unexplained. The TOPEX Side B altimeter is estimated to be biased by 7.0 + / 0.7 mm relative to the Side A altimeter based on an analysis of the first 350 days of Side B data.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Marine Science University of South Florida St. Petersburg, FL

Publication date: July 1, 2000

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