Satellite borne radar altimetry : empirical orbit refinement and ocean signal recovery techniques

  • Gordon W. Jolly

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Measurements of the sea surface obtained by satellite borne radar altimetry are irregularly spaced and contaminated with various modelling and correction errors. The largest source of uncertainty for low Earth orbiting satellites such as ERS-1 and Geosat may be attributed to orbital modelling errors.
    The empirical correction of such errors is investigated by examination of single and dual satellite crossovers, with a view to identifying the extent of any signal aliasing: either by removal of long wavelength ocean signals or introduction of additional error signals. From these studies, it was concluded that sinusoidal approximation of the dominant one cycle per revolution orbit error over arc lengths of 11,500 km did not remove a significant mesoscale ocean signal. The use of TOPEX/Poseidon dual crossovers with ERS-1 was shown to substantially improve the radial accuracy of ERS-1, except for some absorption of small TOPEX/Poseidon errors.
    The extraction of marine geoid information is of great interest to the
    oceanographic community and was the subject of the second half of this
    thesis. Firstly through determination of regional mean sea surfaces using
    Geosat data, it was demonstrated that a dataset with 70cm orbit error
    contamination could produce a marine geoid map which compares to better
    than 12cm with an accurate regional high resolution gravimetric geoid. This study was then developed into Optimal Fourier Transform Interpolation, a technique capable of analysing complete altimeter datasets for the determination of consistent global high resolution geoid maps. This method exploits the regular nature of ascending and descending data subsets thus making possible the application of fast Fourier transform algorithms. Quantitative assessment of this method was limited by the lack of global ground truth gravity data, but qualitative results indicate good signal recovery from a single 35-day cycle.
    Date of AwardApr 1995
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorPhilip Moore (Supervisor)


    • satellite altimetry
    • orbit error
    • optimal interpolation
    • fast Fourier transform

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