Examining the Impact of Surface Currents on Satellite Scatterometer and Altimeter Ocean Winds

Academic Article


  • Abstract A 5-yr dataset collected over two surface current and meteorological moorings allows rigorous evaluation of questions surrounding wave–current interaction and the scatterometer. Results demonstrate that scatterometer winds represent winds relative to the moving sea surface, affirming previous observational efforts that inferred the phenomenon using climatological approaches over larger time and space scales in equatorial and western boundary currents. Comparisons of wind residuals between Ku-band Quick Scatterometer (QuikSCAT) and buoy measurements show nearly one-to-one correlations with ocean surface velocity for 5-, 12.5-, and 25-km resolution wind speed products, especially under conditions of moderate wind speed and near-neutral atmospheric stability. Scatterometer and buoy wind direction differences due to currents were observed to be negligible for the range of surface velocities encountered and the length scales observed by QuikSCAT. Similar analyses are applied to C-band Advanced Scatterometer (ASCAT) satellite wind measurements at the same sites, as well as to satellite altimeter winds, and overall confirm the results seen with QuikSCAT; differences are likely the combined result of sampling, satellite wind algorithms, and geophysical wind–wave coupling in the presence of currents. On the whole, this study affirms that at length scales of 10 km and longer the scatterometer wind can be considered to be current relative. Observed differences between earth-relative and current-relative winds of order 10%–20% of the wind velocity are not uncommon in this and other ocean regions and this study more fully validates that microwave remote sensing winds appear to respond to wind stress even in the presence of larger-scale currents.
  • Authors

  • Plagge, Amanda M
  • Vandemark, Douglas
  • Chapron, Bertrand
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • December 2012
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 1776
  • End Page

  • 1793
  • Volume

  • 29
  • Issue

  • 12