Numerical Simulation of Whitecaps and Foam Effects on Satellite Altimeter Response

Ferdinando Reale, Fabio Dentale, Eugenio Carratelli
2014 Remote Sensing  
The determination of wave height by active satellite remote sensing, be it Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) or altimeter, has been a common practice for many years and is now imbedded on many meteorological and oceanographic forecasting systems. Despite their differences, all active sensors are based on the measurement of the Normalized Radar Cross Section (NRCS) of the sea surface, i.e., of its backscattering properties, which in turn depend on the wind velocity. At small and moderate wind
more » ... moderate wind speeds, the main mechanism is the formation of ripples (small scale waves); at higher speeds, whitecaps appear, and foam starts playing an essential role in determining NRCS. In the past few years much research effort has gone into clarifying these effects, thus improving the general quality of the measurements. Little work, however, has been devoted so far to consider the vertical spatial variation of backscattering properties, and in particular of the floating foam, over the sea surface. As it is shown in the present paper, the shape of the backscattered electromagnetic impulse in radar altimeters depends on the spatial distribution of foam over the water height in the sea waves and therefore the performance of these instruments in determining Significant Wave Height (H s ) and Sea Surface Level (SSL) is strongly affected by this effect. This work tackles these problems by making use of specially implemented numerical algorithms to simulate both sea surface processes and radar altimeter techniques. Results show that some causes of errors can be better understood and eventually corrected: in particular, the paper deals with the reconstruction of the electromagnetic Sea State Bias (SSB), the well known altimeter ranging error due to the presence of ocean waves on the sea surface. OPEN ACCESS Remote Sens. 2014, 6 3682
doi:10.3390/rs6053681 fatcat:ioyr6b7rkbda7kkojdcoekegbi