Satellite altimetry provides the possibility to observe key parts of the hydrosphere, namely the ocean, ice, and continental surface water from space. Since the launch of Topex/Poseidon in 1992 the applications of altimetry have expanded from the open oceans to coastal zones, inland water, land and sea ice. Today, seven missions are in orbit, providing dense and near-global observations of surface elevation and several other parameters. Satellite altimetry has become an integral part of the global observation of the Earth‘s system and changes therein.

In recent years, new satellite altimetry missions have been launched carrying new instruments and operating in new orbits; the CryoSat-2/Sentinel-3 missions equipped with a Delay/Doppler altimeter, the Saral AltiKa mission carrying the first Ka band altimeter, and the recently launched photon counting laser altimeter on-board NASAs ICESat-2.

Fully exploiting this unprecedented availability of observables will enable new applications and results but also require novel and adapted methods of data analysis.
Across the different applications for satellite altimetry, the data analysis and underlying methods are similar and a knowledge exchange between the disciplines will be fruitful.
In this multidisciplinary altimetry session, we therefore invite contributions which discuss new methodology and applications for satellite altimetry in the fields of geodesy, hydrology, cryosphere, oceanography, and climatology.
Topics of such studies could for example be (but not limited to): creation of robust and consistent time series across sensors, validation experiments, combination of radar and laser altimetry e. g. for remote sensing of snow, classification of waveforms, application of data in a geodetic orbit, retracking, or combination with other remote sensing data sets.

Co-organized by CR2/HS6/OS4
Convener: Eva BoergensECSECS | Co-conveners: Stefan Hendricks, Karina Nielsen, Louise Sandberg Sørensen, Bernd UebbingECSECS
| Attendance Wed, 06 May, 10:45–12:30 (CEST)

Files for download

Session materials Download all presentations (93MB)

Chat time: Wednesday, 6 May 2020, 10:45–12:30

Chairperson: Eva Boergens, Stefan Hendrick, Karina Nielsen, Louise Sanberg Soerensen, Bernd Uebbing
D1703 |
Rosemary Morrow and Lee-Lueng Fu

The future international Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) Mission, planned for launch in late 2021, will make high-resolution 2D observations of sea-surface height using SAR radar interferometric techniques. SWOT will map the global and coastal oceans up to 77.6° latitude every 21 days over a swath of 120 km (20 km nadir gap). Today’s 2D mapped altimeter data can resolve ocean scales of 150 km wavelength whereas the SWOT measurement will extend our 2D observations down to 15-30 km, depending on sea state. SWOT will offer new opportunities to observe the oceanic dynamic processes at these smaller scales, that are important in the generation and dissipation of ocean kinetic energy, and are one of the main gateways connecting the surface to the ocean interior. Active vertical exchanges linked to these scales have impacts on the local and global budgets of heat and carbon, and on nutrients for biogeochemical cycles.

SWOT’s unprecedented 2D ocean SSH observations include “balanced” geostrophic eddy motions and high-frequency internal tides and internal waves. SWOT will provide global observations of the 2D structure of these phenomena, enabling us to learn more about their interactions, and helping us to interpret what is currently observed in 1D with conventional altimetry. Yet this mix of balanced and unbalanced motions is a challenge for calculating geostrophic currents directly from SSH or for reconstructing the 4D upper ocean circulation. At these small scales, the ocean dynamics evolve rapidly, and even with SWOT’s 2D SSH images, one satellite cannot observe the temporal evolution of these processes. SWOT data will need to be combined with other satellite and in-situ data and models to better understand the upper ocean 4D circulation (x,y,z,t) over the next decade. SWOT’s new technology will be a forerunner for the future altimetric observing system.

We will present recent progress in understanding the ocean dynamics contributing to fine-scale sea-surface height, including high-frequency processes such as internal tides, from 1D alongtrack altimetry, SAR data, in-situ data and models. We will also discuss the specific problems of validating the SWOT 2D small, rapid dynamics with in-situ data and other satellite data. 

How to cite: Morrow, R. and Fu, L.-L.: Preparing for fine-scale ocean surface topography observations with the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) Mission , EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-7535, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-7535, 2020

D1704 |
Marcello Passaro, Felix L. Müller, Adili Abulaitijiang, Ole B. Andersen, Denise Dettmering, Jacob L. Høyer, Milla Johansson, Julius Oelsmann, Laura Rautiainen, Ida M. Ringgaard, Eero Rinne, Jani Särkkä, Rory Scarrott, Christian Schwatke, Florian Seitz, Kristine Skovgaard Madsen, Laura Tuomi, Americo Ambrozio, Marco Restano, and Jérôme Benveniste

The use of satellite altimetry at high latitudes and coastal regions is currently limited by the presence of seasonal sea ice coverage, and the proximity to the coast. The semi-enclosed Baltic Sea features seasonal coverage of sea-ice in the northern and coastal regions, and complex jagged coastlines with a huge number of small islands. However, as a semi-enclosed sea with a considerable extent, the Baltic Sea features a much-reduced tidal signal, both open- and coastal- waters, and an extensive multi-national network of tide-gauges. These factors maximise opportunities to drive improvements in sea-level estimations for coastal, and seasonal-ice regions.

The ESA Baltic SEAL project, launched in April 2019, aims to exploit these opportunities. It is generating and validating a suite of enhanced multi-mission sea level products. Processing is developed specifically for coastal regions, with the objective of achieving a consistent description of the sea-level variability in terms of long-term trends, seasonal variations and a mean sea-surface. These will advance knowledge on adapting processing algorithms, to account for seasonal ice, and complex coastlines. Best practice approaches will be available to update current state-of-the-art datasets.

In order to fulfill these goals, a novel altimeter re-tracking strategy has been developed. This enables the homogeneous determination of sea-surface heights for open-ocean, coastal and sea-ice conditions (ALES+). An unsupervised classification algorithm based on artificial intelligence routines has been developed and tailored to ingest data from all current and past satellite altimetry missions. This identifies radar echoes, reflected by narrow cracks within the sea-ice domain. Finally, the improved altimetry observations are gridded onto a triangulated surface mesh, featuring a spatial resolution greater than 1/4 degree. This is more suitable for utility for coastal areas, and use by coastal stakeholders.

In addition to utilizing a wide range of altimetry data (Delay-Doppler and Pulse-Limited systems), the Baltic SEAL initiative harnesses the Baltic Seas unique characteristics to test novel geophysical corrections (e.g. wet troposphere correction), use the latest generation of regional altimetry datasets, and evaluate the benefits of the newest satellite altimetry missions. This presentation outlines the methodology and results achieved to date. These include estimations of a new regional mean sea surface, and insights into the trends of the sea level along the altimetry tracks with the longest records. The transfer of advances to other regions and sea-level initiatives are also highlighted.

How to cite: Passaro, M., Müller, F. L., Abulaitijiang, A., Andersen, O. B., Dettmering, D., Høyer, J. L., Johansson, M., Oelsmann, J., Rautiainen, L., Ringgaard, I. M., Rinne, E., Särkkä, J., Scarrott, R., Schwatke, C., Seitz, F., Skovgaard Madsen, K., Tuomi, L., Ambrozio, A., Restano, M., and Benveniste, J.: Using the Baltic Sea to advance algorithms to extract altimetry-derived sea-level data from complex coastal areas, featuring seasonal sea-ice, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-6773, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-6773, 2020

D1705 |
Nico Sneeuw, Omid Elmi, Maximilian Eitel, and Mohammad Tourian

Single-waveform retracking for satellite altimetry applications over coastal zones has reached its limits, obtaining decimeter-level accuracy. The existing retracking methods find a retracker offset in a waveform by analyzing the variation in backscattered power along the bin coordinate. This makes the retracking procedure strongly dependent on noise in backscattered power. Moreover, the success of such methods is only guaranteed for certain waveform types requiring cumbersome pre-processing steps including waveform classification. 

With the launch of the operational Sentinel-3 series of the European Copernicus programme, the algorithms to obtain highly precise water level estimates over inland waters and coastal seas need to become more robust, efficient and fit for automated use. Therefore, the main objective of this study is to demonstrate the potential of developing a next-level retracking algorithm and, consequently, improve altimetric water level determination over coastal regions. To this end, neighboring waveforms are collected into a (single-pass) radargram and, then, such radargrams are stacked over time. These so-called (multi-pass) radargram stacks contain, unlike single waveforms, the full information on spatio-temporal variation of backscattered power over water surfaces.

The radargram stack eases the recognition of patterns like retracking gate, shoreline, tides, etc. Instead of a retracking gate as a point in the 1D waveform, in a 3D radargram stack a surface referred to as retracking manifold is to be determined.

The potential of our new approach will be demonstrated using Sentinel 3B data, pass number 655, over the Cuxhaven tide gauge station at the Wadden Sea.

The idea of waveform retracking by analyzing its spatio-temporal behavior in a 3D data structure opens new pathways for achieving robust and more accurate water level estimates from operational missions, e.g. Sentinel 3, and from future missions, e.g. SWOT, over inland waters and coastal seas.

How to cite: Sneeuw, N., Elmi, O., Eitel, M., and Tourian, M.: Defining a retracking manifold within a radargram stack to improve satellite altimetric water level over coastal seas: A feasibility study, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-9547, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-9547, 2020

D1706 |
Alessandro Di Bella, Ron Kwok, Thomas Armitage, Henriette Skourup, and René Forsberg

For the last 25+ years, satellite altimetry has proven to be a powerful tool to estimate sea ice thickness from space, by measuring directly the sea ice freeboard. Nevertheless, available thickness estimates from satellite altimetry are affected by a relatively high uncertainty, with the largest contributions originating from the poor knowledge of both the Arctic snow cover and the sea surface height (SSH) in ice-covered regions. The ESA’s CryoSat-2 (CS2) radar altimetry mission is the first mission carrying on board an altimeter instrument able to operate in Synthetic Aperture Radar Interferometric (SARIn) mode. Previous studies showed how the phase information available in the SARIn mode can be used to reduce the random uncertainty of the SSH in ice-covered regions [1] and, consequently, the average uncertainty of along-track freeboard retrievals [2].

This work shows that it is possible to extract even more information from level 1b SARIn data. In fact, while it is not possible to perform full swath processing [3] over sea ice, the contribution from sea ice reflections originating close to the satellite nadir is successfully separated from the specular returns from off-nadir leads for some SARIn waveforms. We find that retracking multiple peaks, in combination with the respective phase information, enables to obtain more than one valid height estimate from single SARIn waveforms over sea ice. The resulting larger amount of freeboard estimates, together with the more precise SSH, is found to contribute to an average reduction of the gridded random and total sea ice thickness uncertainties of ~40% and ~25%, respectively, compared to a regular SAR processing scheme. This study also investigates how the CS2 SARIn phase information can aid thickness estimation in coastal areas, using ESA Sentinel-1 SAR images and airborne data from NASA Operation IceBridge campaigns as a mean of validation.

The more precise and, potentially, more accurate freeboard retrievals, as well as the potential for coastal freeboard and thickness estimation shown in this work, support the design of future satellite altimetry missions, e.g. Sentinel-9, operating in SARIn mode over the entire Arctic Ocean.



[1] Armitage, T. W. K., & Davidson, M. W. J. (2014). Using the interferometric capabilities of the ESA CryoSat-2 mission to improve the accuracy of sea ice freeboard retrievals. IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, 52(1), 529–536. http://doi.org/10.1109/TGRS.2013.2242082

[2] Di Bella, A., Skourup, H., Bouffard, J., & Parrinello, T. (2018). Uncertainty reduction of Arctic sea ice freeboard from CryoSat-2 interferometric mode. Advances in Space Research, 62(6), 1251–1264. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.asr.2018.03.018

[3] Gray, L., Burgess, D., Copland, L., Cullen, R., Galin, N., Hawley, R., & Helm, V. (2013). Interferometric swath processing of Cryosat data for glacial ice topography. Cryosphere, 7 (6), 1857–1867.

How to cite: Di Bella, A., Kwok, R., Armitage, T., Skourup, H., and Forsberg, R.: Multi-Peak Retracking of CryoSat-2 SARIn Waveforms: Potential for Sea Ice Applications, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-19534, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-19534, 2020

D1707 |
| Highlight
Thomas Slater, Andrew Shepherd, Malcolm McMillan, Amber Leeson, Lin Gilbert, and Kate Briggs

Seasonal changes in the elevation of the Greenland Ice Sheet below the equilibrium line altitude are driven by ice dynamics and fluctuations in surface melting and snowfall accumulation. Here, we use CryoSat-2 altimetry to estimate summer and winter elevation changes in the ablation area of the Greenland Ice Sheet between 2011 and 2019. During this period, we find average summer and winter elevation trends of -2.52 ± 0.68 m/yr and 0.90 ± 0.39 m/yr, respectively. While the rate at which the ablation zone thickens in winter due to snowfall has remained relatively stable, variability in ice thinning in the summer due to surface melting has followed recent changes in atmospheric circulation. In combination with a regional climate model, we examine patterns of change associated with ice sheet dynamics on both multi-annual and seasonal timescales. At the ice sheet scale, we find our altimeter record of height change within the ablation zone strongly agrees with regional climate model reconstructions of elevation change due to surface processes alone. Between 2011 and 2019, we estimate that the ablation zone of the Greenland Ice Sheet has thinned by 3.86 ± 0.30 m from CryoSat-2 altimetry.

How to cite: Slater, T., Shepherd, A., McMillan, M., Leeson, A., Gilbert, L., and Briggs, K.: Seasonal elevation changes in the Greenland Ice Sheet from CryoSat-2 altimetry, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-13288, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-13288, 2020

How to cite: Slater, T., Shepherd, A., McMillan, M., Leeson, A., Gilbert, L., and Briggs, K.: Seasonal elevation changes in the Greenland Ice Sheet from CryoSat-2 altimetry, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-13288, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-13288, 2020

How to cite: Slater, T., Shepherd, A., McMillan, M., Leeson, A., Gilbert, L., and Briggs, K.: Seasonal elevation changes in the Greenland Ice Sheet from CryoSat-2 altimetry, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-13288, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-13288, 2020

D1708 |
Inès Otosaka, Andrew Shepherd, Tânia Casal, Alex Coccia, Alessandro di Bella, Malcolm Davidson, Xavier Fettweis, René Forsberg, Veit Helm, Anna Hogg, Sine Hvidegaard, Peter Kuipers Munneke, Adriano Lemos, Karlus Macedo, Tommaso Parinello, Louise Sandberg Sørensen, Henriette Skourup, and Sebastian Simonsen

Melting at the surface of the Greenland ice sheet has significantly increased since the early 1990s and this affects the degree to which radar sensors can penetrate beyond the snow surface. Indeed, radars are sensitive to changes in the surface and subsurface properties, up to ~15 m below the snow surface for instruments using the Ku-band (13.5 GHz). When melting occurs, meltwater can percolate in the snowpack or refreeze at the surface and in turn, the degree of radar penetration is sharply reduced. Here we use measurements of near-surface density from firn cores and models and airborne radar and laser data collected during the European Space Agency of ESA’s CRYOsat Validation EXperiment (CRYOVEX) campaigns along a 675 km transect in West Central Greenland between 2006 and 2017 to examine spatial and temporal fluctuations in the near-surface properties and how this affects radar measurements. From airborne data acquired with ASIRAS at Ku-band, we identify internal layers corresponding to melt layers in the snowpack down to 15 m, in good agreement with a firn densification model. We examine the spatial and temporal distribution of these melt layers and we find that the abundance of melt layers is increasing with elevation and depicts a strong inter-annual variability and that these fluctuations are correlated with fluctuations in the degree of the radar penetration depth. For instance, in 2012, the Greenland ice sheet experienced unprecedented melting and this is seen in the radar data by a reduction of 70% of the penetration in the snowpack following this event. The 2012 melt layer is still visible in data recorded 5 years after the melt event at a depth of 5.1 m.  As the frequency and extent of extreme melt events is likely to increase in the coming decades, the effects of fluctuations in Ku-band radar penetration are an important consideration for satellite radar altimetry studies.  However, we show that despite large fluctuations in volume scattering, there is a good agreement between Ku-band retracked heights and coincident laser measurements of 13.9 ± 19.9 cm using a threshold retracker. Finally, we also investigate the potential of using higher-frequency KAREN Ka-band (34.5 GHz) airborne radar data to limit the impact of temporal variations in the snowpack properties on backscattered power. We show that surface scattering dominates the Ka-band radar echoes and, overall, they penetrate to significantly lower distances into the near-surface firn by comparison to those acquired at Ku-band. This suggests that Ka-band data are less sensitive to extreme melt events and that the impact of such events on Ka-band data are likely to last for a shorter period of time compared to Ku-band data.

How to cite: Otosaka, I., Shepherd, A., Casal, T., Coccia, A., di Bella, A., Davidson, M., Fettweis, X., Forsberg, R., Helm, V., Hogg, A., Hvidegaard, S., Kuipers Munneke, P., Lemos, A., Macedo, K., Parinello, T., Sandberg Sørensen, L., Skourup, H., and Simonsen, S.: Correlated Fluctuations in Surface Melting and Ku-band Radar Penetration in West Central Greenland, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-20434, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-20434, 2020

D1709 |
Moshe Armon, Elad Dente, Yuval Shmilovitz, Amit Mushkin, Efrat Morin, Tim J. Choen, and Yehouda Enzel

Many of the world’s drylands are characterized by interior drainage systems that terminate at shallow desert lakes or playas. Except for episodic flooding these largely ephemeral water bodies, remain mostly dry. Surveying and mapping their respective floor topography in a suitable resolution for calculating water balance is a difficult and laborious task. As this is crucial for water resources management and reconstructing paleoenvironmental conditions, diverse methods and efforts were applied. However, detailed, high-quality bathymetric surveys in such environments are rare and have only been conducted in a few such lakes. This is primarily due to their shallow, low-relief, large areas, and often remote characteristics, which complicate application of conventional topographic surveying techniques.  Therefore, satellite-based remote sensing is an essential complementary approach for deriving bathymetry of such lakes.

Global digital elevation models, such as NASA’s Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) or ASTER’s GDEM, are unsuitable for accurate measurements of these ephemeral lakes, mainly because of their impenetrability to water and their high signal-to-noise ratio in the low-relief environments. Recent studies addressed these complications by combining remote sensing data with local calibrations of in-situ measurements, or alternatively, by relating shoreline altitudes with precise altimetry. This approach requires a spatial interpolation of individual measurements. Therefore, it is prone to errors that demand intensive efforts to be reduced; even then the errors may remain larger than the actual depth of a flooded lake. Moreover, such methods are hard to apply in complex lakes with multiple sub-basins.

To tackle these problems, we developed a simple methodology to derive a high-resolution (30 m per pixel) bathymetry of shallow desert lakes. In this new method we combine two sources of data: a >30-yr record of Landsat-derived surface water occurrence data; and accurate high-resolution elevation data, acquired by the NASA’s recently launched ICESat-2 satellite (Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2). We test the proposed new method over three ephemeral lakes around the world: Lake Eyre, Australia, with its complex shallow lake system, consisting of a few sub-basins; Sabkhat Al-Mellah, Algeria; Lago Coipasa, Bolivia. The accuracy of the resulted bathymetric maps was evaluated using cross-validation of ICESat-2 scans, yielding low RMSD values of ~0.3 m, versus ~2.5 m of the SRTM data (validated through other ICESat-2 scans). At Lago Coipasa, we show that bathymetry was effectively determined even when the lake was full of water (up to a few meters depth). This high-resolution, low-error bathymetry mapping complement other globally available topographic data.

How to cite: Armon, M., Dente, E., Shmilovitz, Y., Mushkin, A., Morin, E., Choen, T. J., and Enzel, Y.: High-resolution bathymetry mapping of shallow and ephemeral desert lakes using satellite imagery and altimetry, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-445, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-445, 2019

D1710 |
Mao Zhou, Taoyong Jin, Jiancheng Li, Shengjun Zhang, and Minzhang Hu

Marine gravity is mainly inversed by the nadir satellite altimetry observations. However, the accuracy of the east-west component of vertical deflection is significantly lower than the north-south component. The wide-swath altimeter is one of the main altimetry missions in the future. Its two-dimensional design is expected to obtain high-precision and high-resolution sea surface height simultaneously, and to improve the accuracy of the marine gravity inversion. Taking the SWOT (Surface Water and Ocean Topography) wide-swath altimeter mission as an example, based on the parameters including the ground track and the width of swath, the static sea surface height observations of SWOT, as well as the nadir altimeter missions Jason-1/GM, Cryosat-2/LRM, and SARAL/GM were simulated. Then, the vertical deflections were calculated from above observations to analyze the ability of marine gravity inversion in the South China Sea and part of the Indian Ocean. Compared with EGM2008 model, the vertical deflections determined by one cycle of SWOT are better than the result determined by combining Jason-1/GM, Cryosat-2/LRM, and SARAL/GM. And the results determined by SWOT improve the accuracy of the east-west component of vertical deflection significantly. And then, several specific errors of SWOT satellite were simulated, and their influence on the determination of the vertical deflection was analyzed. It is noted that these errors have certain influence on the accuracy, but can be weakened by using a simple Gaussian filter. In addition, the influence of SWOT sea surface height resolution on the gravity field inversion was analyzed. As a result, under the premise of the designed accuracy and resolution of the SWOT mission, its observations can improve the quality of marine gravity inversion effectively.

How to cite: Zhou, M., Jin, T., Li, J., Zhang, S., and Hu, M.: Analysis on the Accuracy of Marine Gravity Inversion from the Wide-swath Altimeter Mission, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-12239, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-12239, 2020

D1711 |
Milaa Murshan, Balaji Devaraju, Nagarajan Balasubramanium, and Onkar Dikshit

The Mean Sea Level is not an equipotential surface because it is subject to several variations, e.g., the tides, currents, winds, etc. Mean Sea Level can be measured either by tide gauges near to coastlines relative to local datum or by satellite altimeter above the reference ellipsoid. From this observable quantity, one can derive a non-observable quantity at which the potential is constant called geoid and differs from mean sea surface by amount of ±1 m. This separation is called Sea Surface Topography. In this research, the data of nine altimetric Exact Repeat Missions (Envisat, ERS_1 of 35 days (phase C and G), ERS_2, GFO, Jason_1, Jason_2, Jason_3, Topex/Poseidon and SARAL) were used for computing the regional mean sea surface model over the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The data of all missions together span approximately 25 years from September -1992 to January-2017 and referenced to Topex ellipsoid.  Which is later transformed to WGS84 ellipsoid, as it is chosen to be a unified datum in this study. Prior to computing the altimetric MSS,  altimetric sea surface height measurements were validated  by comparing  time series of altimetric-MSL with mean sea level time series calculated from three in-situ tide gauge measurements.  The sea surface heights values of the derived MSS model is between 15.6 and 26.7 m. And the linear trend slope is between -3.02 to 6.53 mm/year.

Keywords: Mean Sea Level, Satellite Altimetry, Tide Gauge, Exact Repeat Missions

How to cite: Murshan, M., Devaraju, B., Balasubramanium, N., and Dikshit, O.: Regional Mean Sea Surface Model over the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-312, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-312, 2019

D1712 |
Anastasiia Frolova and Tatyana Belonenko

Rossby waves in the ocean play a crucial role in large-scale ocean circulation and global climate. However, the interaction of Rossby waves with large-scale currents in the ocean is still a relatively little studied issue. The Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) is the largest ocean current in the World Ocean. The ACC is a waveguide for Rossby waves where wave kinetic energy is captured by jets, and where Rossby waves interact with the flow. The purpose of this research is to analyze a manifestation of Rossby waves in the ACC based on satellite altimetry data. We propose a new approach to determining the boundaries of the waveguide. We analyze the variability of sea level anomalies and examine the latitude where the zonal velocity of Rossby waves is zero. For calculating Rossby waves velocities we use Radon and cross-correlation methods. We detect the Northern and the Southern Waveguide Boundaries for the ACC and compare them to the climatological fronts in the ACC. The linear theory of Rossby waves doesn’t work within the waveguide due to that we should consider nonlinear in the long-wave approximation. It follows from the theory of shallow water that nonlinearity in the long-wave approximation compensates exactly for the Doppler shift. The nonlinear dispersion equation agrees well with altimetry data.

The investigation is supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research grant (17-05-00034).

How to cite: Frolova, A. and Belonenko, T.: Waveguide for Rossby waves in the Antarctic Circumpolar current based on the altimetry data, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-777, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-777, 2019

D1713 |
Américo Ambrózio, Marco Restano, and Jérôme Benveniste

The scope of this work is to showcase the BRAT (Broadview Radar Altimetry Toolbox) and GUT (GOCE User Toolbox) toolboxes.

The Broadview Radar Altimetry Toolbox (BRAT) is a collection of tools designed to facilitate the processing of radar altimetry data from all previous and current altimetry missions, including Sentinel-3A L1 and L2 products. A tutorial is included providing plenty of use cases on Geodesy & Geophysics, Oceanography, Coastal Zone, Atmosphere, Wind & Waves, Hydrology, Land, Ice and Climate, which can also be consulted in  http://www.altimetry.info/radar-altimetry-tutorial/.

BRAT's last version (4.2.1) was released in June 2018. Based on the community feedback, the front-end has been further improved and simplified whereas the capability to use BRAT in conjunction with MATLAB/IDL or C/C++/Python/Fortran, allowing users to obtain desired data bypassing the data-formatting hassle, remains unchanged. Several kinds of computations can be done within BRAT involving the combination of data fields, that can be saved for future uses, either by using embedded formulas including those from oceanographic altimetry, or by implementing ad-hoc Python modules created by users to meet their needs. BRAT can also be used to quickly visualise data, or to translate data into other formats, e.g. from NetCDF to raster images.

The GOCE User Toolbox (GUT) is a compilation of tools for the use and the analysis of GOCE gravity field models. It facilitates using, viewing and post-processing GOCE L2 data and allows gravity field data, in conjunction and consistently with any other auxiliary data set, to be pre-processed by beginners in gravity field processing, for oceanographic and hydrologic as well as for solid earth applications at both regional and global scales. Hence, GUT facilitates the extensive use of data acquired during GRACE and GOCE missions.

In the current version (3.2), GUT has been outfitted with a graphical user interface allowing users to visually program data processing workflows. Further enhancements aiming at facilitating the use of gradients, the anisotropic diffusive filtering, and the computation of Bouguer and isostatic gravity anomalies have been introduced. Packaged with GUT is also GUT's Variance/Covariance Matrix (VCM) tool, which enables non-experts to compute and study, with relative ease, the formal errors of quantities – such as geoid height, gravity anomaly/disturbance, radial gravity gradient, vertical deflections – that may be derived from the GOCE gravity models.

On our continuous endeavour to provide better and more useful tools, we intend to integrate BRAT into SNAP (Sentinel Application Platform). This will allow our users to easily explore the synergies between both toolboxes. During 2020 we will start going from separate toolboxes to a single one.

BRAT and GUT toolboxes can be freely downloaded, along with ancillary material, at https://earth.esa.int/brat and https://earth.esa.int/gut.

How to cite: Ambrózio, A., Restano, M., and Benveniste, J.: The BRAT and GUT Couple: Broadview Radar Altimetry and GOCE User Toolboxes, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-15814, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-15814, 2020

D1714 |
Róbert Čunderlík, Marek Macák, Michal Kollár, and Karol Mikula

Recent high-resolution mean sea surface models obtained from satellite altimetry in a combination with the GRACE/GOCE-based global geopotential models provide valuable information for detailed modelling of the altimetry-derived gravity data. Our approach is based on a numerical solution of the altimetry-gravimetry boundary-value problem using the finite volume method (FVM). FVM discretizes the 3D computational domain between an ellipsoidal approximation of the Earth's surface and an upper boundary chosen at a mean altitude of the GOCE satellite orbits. A parallel implementation of the finite volume numerical scheme and large-scale parallel computations on clusters with distributed memory allow to get a high-resolution numerical solution in the whole 3D computational domain. Our numerical experiment presents the altimetry-derived gravity disturbances and disturbing gradients determined with the high-resolution 1 x 1 arc min at two altitude levels; on the reference ellipsoid and at the altitude of 10 km above the ellipsoid. As input data, the Dirichlet boundary conditions over oceans/seas are considered in the form of the disturbing potential. It is obtained from the geopotential evaluated on the DTU18 mean sea surface model from the GO_CONS_GCF_2_TIM_R5 geopotential model and then filtered using the nonlinear diffusion filtering. On the upper boundary, the FVM solution is fixed to the disturbing potential generated from the GO_CONS_GCF_2_DIR_R5 model while exploiting information from the GRACE and GOCE satellite missions.

How to cite: Čunderlík, R., Macák, M., Kollár, M., and Mikula, K.: High-resolution numerical modelling of the altimetry-derived gravity disturbances and disturbing gradients, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-13608, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-13608, 2020

D1715 |
David Cotton, Thomas Moreau, Mònica Roca, Christine Gommenginger, Mathilde Cancet, Luciana Fenoglio-Marc, Marc Naeije, M Joana Fernandes, Andrew Shaw, Marco Restano, Americo Ambrosio, and Jérôme Benveniste

SCOOP (SAR Altimetry Coastal & Open Ocean Performance) is a project funded under the ESA SEOM (Scientific Exploitation of Operational Missions) Programme Element, to characterise the expected performance of Sentinel-3 SRAL SAR mode altimeter products, and then to develop and evaluate enhancements to the baseline processing scheme in terms of improvements to ocean measurements. Another objective is to develop and evaluate an improved Wet Troposphere correction for Sentinel-3.

The SCOOP studies are based on two 2-year test data sets derived from CryoSat-2 FBR data, produced for 10 regions. The first Test Data Set was processed with algorithms equivalent to the Sentinel-3 baseline, and the second with algorithms expected to provide an improved performance.

We present results from the SCOOP project that demonstrate the excellent performance of SRAL at the coast in terms of measurement precision, with noise in Sea Surface Height 20Hz measurements of less than 5cm to within 5km of the coast.

We then report the development and testing of new processing approaches designed to improve performance, including, for L1B to L2:

  • Application of zero-padding
  • Application of intra-burst Hamming windowing
  • Exact beam forming in the azimuthal direction
  • Restriction of stack processing to within a specified range of look angles.
  • Along-track antenna compensation


And for L1B to L2

  • Application of alternative re-trackers for SAR and RDSAR.


Based on the results of this assessment, a second test data set was generated and we present an assessment of the performance of this second Test Data Set generated, and compare it to that of the original Test Data Set.

Regarding the WTC for Sentinel-3A, the correction from the on-board MWR has been assessed by means of comparison with independent data sets such as the GPM Microwave Imager (GMI), Jason-2, Jason-3 and Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) derived WTC at coastal stations. GNSS-derived path Delay Plus (GPD+) corrections have been derived for S3A. Results indicate good overall performance of S3A MWR and GPD+ WTC improvements over MWR-derived WTC, particularly in coastal and polar regions.


Based on the outcomes of this study we provide recommendations for improving SAR mode altimeter processing and priorities for future research.

How to cite: Cotton, D., Moreau, T., Roca, M., Gommenginger, C., Cancet, M., Fenoglio-Marc, L., Naeije, M., Fernandes, M. J., Shaw, A., Restano, M., Ambrosio, A., and Benveniste, J.: Improved Retrieval Methods for Sentinel-3 SAR Altimetry over Coastal and Open Ocean and recommendations for implementation: ESA SCOOP Project Results, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-2215, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-2215, 2020

D1716 |
Xingxing Zhang, Liguang jiang, Zhijun Yao, Zhaofei Liu, Rui Wang, Jun Liu, and Peter Bauer-Gottwein

Satellite radar altimetry is increasingly being used for hydrological studies. However, it is still challenging to deliver high quality data over inland water bodies, i.e. lakes, rivers and reservoirs. One of the reasons is that the positioning of the range window is difficult due to highly variable topography and water surface elevation. To address this issue, Sentinel-3, the first SAR altimeter operating at global scale, is configured with a new on-board tracking system, i.e. open-loop mode. An open-loop tracking system can position the range window very efficiently based on a priori surface elevation stored on-board. In this context, a suitable a priori surface elevation of inland water bodies is very important.

Sentinel-3 is operating based on a pseudo-DEM controlled through the Open-Loop Tracking Command (OLTC).  The current OLTC V5 (operated after March 2019) is generated based on an inland water mask and Altimeter corrected Elevations (ACE-2), which is created using multi-mission Satellite Radar Altimetry from 1994-2005 in combination with the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM). However, OLTC V5 still misses some inland water bodies and contains some incorrect surface elevations, especially over newly built reservoirs, where the difference between water surface elevation and ACE-2 can exceed 100m.

In this study, a comprehensive evaluation of Sentinel-3A (S3A) is conducted at 26 globally-distributed recently constructed large reservoirs. The results show that S3A fails to deliver useful data over most new reservoirs in open loop due to the incorrect a priori elevations stored in OLTC V5. On the contrary, S3A closed-loop (operated before March 2019) can deliver useful data in many cases.

To improve the OLTC table, we propose two approaches. The first one is to use dam height to correct the a priori surface elevation, which is relevant for very recently completed dams or dams under construction. The other is to use water surface elevation from Cryosat-2 to update the OLTC table. The approaches are demonstrated for reservoirs located on the Lancang and Nu rivers in the Southwest of China. The updated OLTC table will help exploit the Sentinel-3 radar altimetry mission to its full potential, enabling it to correctly track water surface elevation in a larger number of water bodies.

How to cite: Zhang, X., jiang, L., Yao, Z., Liu, Z., Wang, R., Liu, J., and Bauer-Gottwein, P.: Evaluation of Sentinel-3 SRAL SAR Altimetry over Recently Constructed Global Reservoirs, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-8012, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-8012, 2020

D1717 |
Luciana Fenoglio-Marc, Bernd Uebbing, Jürgen Kusche, and Salvatore Dinardo

A significant part of the World population lives in the coastal zone, which is affected by coastal sea level rise and extreme events. Our hypothesis is that the most accurate sea level height measurements are derived from the Synthetic Aperture Altimetry (SAR) mode. This study analyses the output of dedicated processing and assesses their impacts on the sea level change of the North-Eastern Atlantic. 

It will be shown that SAR altimetry reduces the minimum usable distance from five to three kilometres when the dedicated coastal retrackers SAMOSA+ and SAMOSA++ are applied to data processed in SAR mode. A similar performance is achieved with altimeter data processed in pseudo low resolution mode (PLRM) when the Spatio-Temporal Altimeter sub-waveform Retracker (STAR) is used. Instead the Adaptive Leading Edge Sub-waveform retracker (TALES) applied to PLRM is less performant. SAR processed altimetry can recover the sea level heights with 4 cm accuracy up to 3-4 km distance to coast. Thanks to the low noise of SAR mode data, the instantaneous SAR and in-situ data have the highest agreement, with the smallest standard deviation of differences and the highest correlation. A co-location of the altimeter data near the tide gauge is the best choice for merging in-situ and altimeter data. The r.m.s. (root mean squared) differences between altimetry and in-situ heights remain large in estuaries and in coastal zone with high tidal regimes, which are still challenging regions. The geophysical parameters derived from CryoSat-2 and Sentinel-3A measurements have similar accuracy, but the different repeat cycle of the two missions locally affects the constructed time-series.

The impact of these new SAR observations in climate change studies is assessed by evaluating regional and local time series of sea level. At distances to coast smaller than 10 Kilometers the sea level change derived from SAR and LRM data is in good agreement. The long-term sea level variability derived from monthly time-series of LRM altimetry and of land motion-corrected tide gauges agrees within 1 mm/yr for half of in-situ German stations. The long-term sea level variability derived from SAR data show a similar behaviour with increasing length of the time series.


How to cite: Fenoglio-Marc, L., Uebbing, B., Kusche, J., and Dinardo, S.: Coastal Sea Level Change from in the North Eastern Atlantic, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-19345, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-19345, 2020

D1718 |
Tong Hao, Rongxing Li, Gang Qiao, Hongwei Li, Gang Hai, Haotian Cui, Youquan He, Hong Tang, Huan Xie, and Bo Sun

NASA launched the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) satellite on September 15, 2018. The photon counting altimeter of ICESat-2 is designed to provide centimeter-level accuracy surface elevation observations and is expected to reduce the uncertainty of the estimated sea level rise contribution from Antarctica. The ICESat-2 mission team has conducted a validation campaign and stated that the data released in the first year met the design requirements. In this study we designed and implemented an independent validation scheme along the 36th CHINARE (Chinese Antarctic Research Expedition) route in East Antarctica as a different validation site. 1) GNSS data collected during a week in December 2019 along the 500-km traverse from the Zhongshan Station to the Taishan Station are compared with the crossover ICESat-2 points. The GNSS receiver (CHC i70) was fixed on the roof of the Pisten Bully Polar 300 and cooperated with 5 GNSS base stations spaced every ~100 km. 2) To investigate photons reflectivity we used a rectangular area target for each site at three Chinese stations, with considerations of the reflectivity and satellite tracks. 22 upward-looking optical prisms were installed to capture photons with known ground elevations. 3) Finally, we utilized DJI Phantom 4 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to obtain centimeter-level DEMs of ice sheet surface and compare with the ICESat-2 points. The results are analyzed for several applications and compared against the published validation results of the mission team.

How to cite: Hao, T., Li, R., Qiao, G., Li, H., Hai, G., Cui, H., He, Y., Tang, H., Xie, H., and Sun, B.: Validation of ICESat-2 Data along CHINARE Route in East Antarctica, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-12691, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-12691, 2020

D1719 |
Baojun Zhang, Quanming Yang, Zemin Wang, Hong Geng, Jiachun An, and Shengjun Zhang

Satellite altimetry is an important data source for ice sheet change observation. The long-term time series of ice sheet changes can be obtained by combining satellite altimetry missions with similar sensor characteristics. Then, how to correct the inter-mission offsets becomes an important scientific issue. Review of previous studies, we found that the observations of satellite ascending and descending orbits also have an important influence on the estimation of inter-mission offsets. On this basis, have created a new least-square fitting mathematical model to estimate and correct the errors of ascending and descending orbits and inter-mission offsets by introducing the inter-mission offsets terms related to the observations of ascending and descending orbits. Utilizing this model, we developed a time series of monthly Antarctic ice sheet elevation changes of 5 km grid from May 2002 to April 2019. A validation with surface elevation from airborne observations and a comparison with surface elevation changes from ICESat proved that the proposed model can successfully estimate and correct the errors and be used to construct multi-mission surface elevation time series. Without a doubt, the temporal and spatial changes of Antarctic ice sheet elevation can be obtained from our monthly grid time series. From the time series, we find that over the period May 2002 to April 2019 the loss of ice and snow in the Antarctic ice sheet mainly occurred in the glaciers along the Amundsen coast in the West Antarctic and the Totten glacier in the East Antarctic, while the accumulation took place in Queen Maud of the East Antarctic. In May 2002, the Antarctic ice sheet experienced a volume loss of -71.4 ± 11.7 km3/yr, with an acceleration of –5.8 ± 1.2 km3/yr2 over the period May 2002 to April 2019, including 45.0 ± 9.6 km3/yr and 0.1 ±1.0 km3/yr2 for the East Antarctic ice sheet, -97.0 ± 4.4 km3/yr and -7.6 ±0.5 km3/yr2 for the West Antarctic ice sheet and -19.5 ± 5.3 km3/yr and 1.7 ±0.5 km3/yr2 for the Antarctic Peninsula ice sheet.

How to cite: Zhang, B., Yang, Q., Wang, Z., Geng, H., An, J., and Zhang, S.: A new elevation change time series of the Antarctic Ice Sheet from Envisat and CryoSat-2 radar altimetry, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-10571, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-10571, 2020

D1720 |
Natalia Havelund, Louise S. Sørensen, and Sebastian B. Simonsen

In a changing climate it is important to continuously monitor the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) in relation to global sea level rise (Gardner et al., 2013). The margin of the GrIS is the most sensitive to climate changes and responds quickly.

Here, we study how to improve the sensing capabilities of the marginal areas by applying the novel swath processing technique of interferometric SAR radar data, which is only available from the SIRAL altimeter onboard the Cryosat-2 satellite. In contrast to traditional Point-of-closest-approach (POCA) processing of radar altimeter data, the swath processing delivers a band of data far from nadir and beyond the POCA point. Despite the swath processing, in comparison with POCA, delivers millions of extra data points (Foresta et al., 2018) the new estimates come with a lower signal-to-noise ratio and the method can be optimized further. Here, we investigate the added value of, under suitable surface conditions, to lower the coherence limit to derive the optimal number of observation points and still keep an acceptable signal-to-noise ratio. This will allow us to get the most out of each Cryosat-2 waveform. The validation is further aided by the inter-comparison to airborne data collected during the ESA CryoVEx campaigns.


How to cite: Havelund, N., S. Sørensen, L., and B. Simonsen, S.: Investigation of the added value of a varying coherence threshold for CryoSat-2 swath processing, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-21772, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-21772, 2020

D1721 |
Giada Molari, Alessio Domeneghetti, Mohammad Tourian, Angelica Tarpanelli, Tommaso Moramarco, and Nicolaas Sneeuw

The recent improvement of satellite products has provided an increasing data availability with an unprecedented coverage, stimulating their usage in hydraulic and hydrological fields. Notwithstanding, regarding the satellite water level monitoring, the limited temporal resolution (i.e. revisit time varying from 10 to 35 days) and decimeter accuracy of  altimetry satellites strongly restrict their applications. Recently proposed multi-mission (MM) densified time series might represent a possible alternative to ensure higher spatial and temporal coverage. However, an assessment of the potential of different altimetry products, including MM series, for hydrodynamic model calibration is still missing. The goal of this study is the assessment of remotely sensed water surface elevations usefulness for the calibration of a hydraulic model implemented for a 140-km stretch of the Po River (Italy). In particular this study presents: i) a comparison of altimetry satellite data collected from different missions (ENVISAT (E), ENVISAT extended (EX), TOPEX/Poseidon (TP), SARAL/AltiKa (SA), Jason-2 (J2) and Jason-3 (J3); ii) insights to the effects of satellite series length on hydraulic model calibration; iii) the analysis of how data uncertainty influences model accuracy; iv) the potential of multi-mission (MM) densified time series as possible alternative to overcome spatial and temporal limitations of single mission. The results highlight a good agreement among satellite and in-situ observations for all the series, excluding EX series. J2 provides the best outcome in terms of calibration error (about 30 cm) and number of measurements required to achieve a reliable calibration (less than 1 year of data). In case of frequent and accurate satellite data (i.e. J2 and TP), the MM series seem unable to provide additional benefits in calibrating the hydraulic model. On the other hand, MM series outperform low frequency products (i.e. E and SA) when the latter are available only for short period. This research offers a wide overview of the potential of altimetry products, providing a general comparison of different satellite missions series and showing the potential, as well as limitations, offered by multi-mission series.

How to cite: Molari, G., Domeneghetti, A., Tourian, M., Tarpanelli, A., Moramarco, T., and Sneeuw, N.: Satellite altimetry for hydraulic model calibration: potential of single and multi-mission series, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-712, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-712, 2019

D1722 |
Huan Chin Kao, Chung Yen Kuo, Ck Shum, and Yuchan Yi

Pulse-limited radar altimeters have been proven to be an excellent data source in oceanography for monitoring sea surface heights and inland water surface elevations since the 1990s. However, the measurements of conventional altimetry missions in coastal areas present the principal problems related to the inherent limitations of this technique such as wider footprint resulting in contaminated waveforms and relatively unreliable media and geophysical corrections. The European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) joint mission Sentinel-3A, launched in February 2016, is the first altimetry mission to provide 100% global coverage of ocean observations in Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) mode. The Sentinel-3A carries a dual-frequency (Ku- and C-band) Synthetic Aperture Radar Altimeter (SRAL) with a new on-board tracking system (open-loop tracking mode) to employ SAR altimetry technologies providing finer along-track spatial resolution up to ~300 m. Compared with the similar mission Cryosat-2, Sentinel-3A has a better ability to observe the global monitoring of ocean dynamics with a shorter repeat cycle of 27 days and less affected by topography in contaminated waveforms from coastal regions due to open-loop tracking mode with a good prior surface elevation estimate on-board. In this study, the SAR altimetry observations of Sentinel-3A over the Taiwan coastal region were reprocessed by a proposed retracking strategy to obtain more accurately retrieved sea level observations. The main objective of this study is to evaluate the performance of Sentinel-3A in coastal observation by using a near-by tide gauge measurements or other altimetry mission like SARAL/Altika and Jason-3.

How to cite: Kao, H. C., Kuo, C. Y., Shum, C., and Yi, Y.: Evaluation of Sentinel-3A SAR Altimetry Observations over the Taiwan coastal region, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-12039, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-12039, 2020