Retracking CryoSat-2, Envisat and Jason-1 radar altimetry waveforms for improved gravity field recovery

        Power spectra (20 Hz) of the difference in along track height between passes retracked with the 3-parameter model and the 2-parameter model after smoothing
TitleRetracking CryoSat-2, Envisat and Jason-1 radar altimetry waveforms for improved gravity field recovery
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsGarcia E.S, Sandwell DT, Smith W.HF
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Date Published2014/03
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0956-540X
Accession NumberWOS:000331815500010
Keywordsarctic-ocean; Bathymetry; ers-1; geosat; Gravity anomalies and Earth structure; impulse-response; mission; performance; resolution; rough-surface; satellite altimetry; Satellite geodesy; submarine; tectonics and volcanism

Improving the accuracy of the marine gravity field requires both improved altimeter range precision and dense track coverage. After a hiatus of more than 15 yr, a wealth of suitable data is now available from the CryoSat-2, Envisat and Jason-1 satellites. The range precision of these data is significantly improved with respect to the conventional techniques used in operational oceanography by retracking the altimeter waveforms using an algorithm that is optimized for the recovery of the short-wavelength geodetic signal. We caution that this new approach, which provides optimal range precision, may introduce large-scale errors that would be unacceptable for other applications. In addition, CryoSat-2 has a new synthetic aperture radar (SAR) mode that should result in higher range precision. For this new mode we derived a simple, but approximate, analytic model for the shape of the SAR waveform that could be used in an iterative least-squares algorithm for estimating range. For the conventional waveforms, we demonstrate that a two-step retracking algorithm that was originally designed for data from prior missions (ERS-1 and Geosat) also improves precision on all three of the new satellites by about a factor of 1.5. The improved range precision and dense coverage from CryoSat-2, Envisat and Jason-1 should lead to a significant increase in the accuracy of the marine gravity field.


Taken together, advancements from SAR altimetry, as well as the application of two-step retracking to conventional altimetry, yield enhanced recovery of sea surface slopes from CryoSat-2, Envisat, and Jason-1 data when compared to previous measurements from the geodetic missions of the Geosat and ERS-1 altimeters.

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