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Resolution of Seamount Geoid Anomalies Achieved by the SARAL/AltiKa and Envisat RA2 Satellite Radar Altimeters

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The resolution of seamount geoid anomalies by the SARAL/AltiKa Ka-band radar altimeter is compared with the Envisat RA2 Ku-band altimeter using cross-spectral analysis of exact-repeat profiles. Noise spectra show white noise floors at root-mean-square levels around 8 mm per root-Hz for AltiKa and 19 mm per root-Hz for RA2, and are colored at wavelengths longer than a few km, with a spectral hump similar to that seen in Jason-2 data. The AltiKa noise level is lower than the RA2 noise level by more than one would expect from the ratio of their pulse repetition frequencies. Large outliers are present in data from both altimeters, always of one sign (range too long), and show little correlation with rain or other error flags. Seamount anomaly signal to noise ratios are 30 to 10 dB for AltiKa and 3 to 8 dB less for RA2, decreasing as seamount size decreases. Seamounts as small as 1.35 km tall are resolved by both instruments, with significantly better performance by AltiKa due to its lower noise level. If AltiKa can fly a geodetic mission, it will find many presently unknown seamounts.
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Keywords: Geodesy; bathymetric prediction; feature detection; signal-to-noise ratio; spectral analysis

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Laboratory for Satellite Altimetry, College Park, Maryland, USA

Publication date: September 10, 2015

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