First year qualifying report: neural networks for extracting wind vectors from satellite scatterometer data

David J. Evans

Research output: Preprint or Working paperProject report


The ERS-1 Satellite was launched in July 1991 by the European Space Agency into a polar orbit at about km800, carrying a C-band scatterometer. A scatterometer measures the amount of radar back scatter generated by small ripples on the ocean surface induced by instantaneous local winds. Operational methods that extract wind vectors from satellite scatterometer data are based on the local inversion of a forward model, mapping scatterometer observations to wind vectors, by the minimisation of a cost function in the scatterometer measurement space.par This report uses mixture density networks, a principled method for modelling conditional probability density functions, to model the joint probability distribution of the wind vectors given the satellite scatterometer measurements in a single cell (the `inverse' problem). The complexity of the mapping and the structure of the conditional probability density function are investigated by varying the number of units in the hidden layer of the multi-layer perceptron and the number of kernels in the Gaussian mixture model of the mixture density network respectively. The optimal model for networks trained per trace has twenty hidden units and four kernels. Further investigation shows that models trained with incidence angle as an input have results comparable to those models trained by trace. A hybrid mixture density network that incorporates geophysical knowledge of the problem confirms other results that the conditional probability distribution is dominantly bimodal.par The wind retrieval results improve on previous work at Aston, but do not match other neural network techniques that use spatial information in the inputs, which is to be expected given the ambiguity of the inverse problem. Current work uses the local inverse model for autonomous ambiguity removal in a principled Bayesian framework. Future directions in which these models may be improved are given.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBirmingham, UK
PublisherAston University
Number of pages58
ISBN (Print)NCRG/99/005
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • Satellite
  • European Space Agency
  • polar orbit
  • scatterometer
  • ripples
  • local winds
  • local inversion
  • forward model
  • mapping
  • cost function
  • density networks
  • conditional probability density functions
  • joint probability distribution
  • kernels
  • Gaussian mixture model
  • geophysical knowledge
  • ambiguity removal
  • Bayesian framework


Dive into the research topics of 'First year qualifying report: neural networks for extracting wind vectors from satellite scatterometer data'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this