EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Sea state dependent Doppler spread as a limit of coherent GNSS reflectometry from an airborne platform

Mario Moreno1,4, Maximilian Semmling1, Georges Stienne2, Wafa Dalil2, Mainul Hoque1, Jens Wickert3,4, and Serge Reboul2
Mario Moreno et al.
  • 1Institute for Solar-Terrestrial Physics (DLR-SO), Neustrelitz, Germany (
  • 2Université Littoral Côte d’Opale (ULCO), Calais, France
  • 3German Research Centre for Geosciences GFZ, Potsdam, Germany
  • 4Technische Universität Berlin, Germany (

Sea level rise and sea state variability due to climate change and global warming are major research topics in the scientific community. Wind speed (WS) and significant wave height (SWH) are usable parameters to monitor the sea state threats and the impact of the ocean weather conditions in coastal areas. GNSS reflectometry (GNSS-R) has shown considerable promise as a remote sensing technique for ocean parameters estimation. Multiple studies have been successfully conducted in the recent two decades by using GNSS-R ground-based, airborne and spaceborne data to retrieve geophysical properties of the sea surface.

The focus of this study is to investigate the Doppler shift of the reflected signal as observable to estimate the Doppler spread (DS) and determine its correlation with sea state changes, making use of GNSS-R airborne data in coastal areas. An additional aim is to study the possibility of using the Doppler spread as a metric for coherent GNSS reflectometry for applications such as precise altimetry and precise total electron content (TEC) estimates. An experiment was conducted from the 12th to the 19th of July 2019 along Opal Coast, between the cities of Calais and Boulogne-sur-Mer, France. The experiment consisted of multiple flights at an altitude of ~780m (a.m.s.l). The direct and reflected signals were received by dual-polarized (Right-Handed and Left-Handed Circular Polarizations) antenna mounted on a gyrocopter.

A software receiver is used to process the direct and reflected signals from the right-hand channel. The resulting in-phase (I) and quadrature (Q) components (at 50 Hz rate) of the reflected signals are analyzed in the spectral domain every ten seconds to obtain the relative Doppler shift and power estimates. The coherence is established by analyzing the phase observations obtained from I and Q. The sensitivity of the reflected signal estimates and the sea state is determined by the correlation between the Doppler Spread with wind speed and significant wave height. The latter two were obtained from the atmospheric, land and oceanic climate model, ERA5, provided by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF).

Initial results have shown promising performance at a calm sea (WS: 2.9 m/s and SWH: 0.26 m) and grazing angles. Satellites with low elevations (E < 10°) present a Doppler Spread of 0.3 Hz and its Pearson correlations with respect to WS and SHW are 0.89 and 0.75, respectively. The performance is relatively poor for high elevation events (E > 30°). The DS increases up to 2.1 Hz and the correlation decrease to 0.55 and 0.42 respectively. Coherence conditions are still under study; however, preliminary phase analysis reveals coherent observations at events with elevations below 15° and sea state with a significant wave height of 0.26 m.

How to cite: Moreno, M., Semmling, M., Stienne, G., Dalil, W., Hoque, M., Wickert, J., and Reboul, S.: Sea state dependent Doppler spread as a limit of coherent GNSS reflectometry from an airborne platform, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-10832,, 2022.


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