Can Synthetic Aperture Radars Be Used to Estimate Hurricane Force Winds?


We compare wind fields retrieved from a RADARSAT-I synthetic aperture radar (SAR) image acquired over Hurricane Ivan on September 10, 2004 using the C-band geophysical model functions Cmod4 and its newest version Cmod5. Cmod4 has previously been shown to yield very good wind field estimates under low and moderate wind conditions. Wind directions obtained from streaks imaged by the SAR, that are well aligned with the mean surface wind direction are used to invert both algorithms to obtain estimates of the wind speed on scales of 1 km. These estimates are compared with predictions from a high-resolution tropical cyclone model as well as local in situ data. It is found that the SAR wind speeds using Cmod5 agree reasonably well, while those from Cmod4 significantly under predict the measured wind speeds near the hurricane eye wall that reach values as high as 60 m s−1.
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