Marine X‐Band Radar Currents and Bathymetry: An Argument for a Wave Number‐Dependent Retrieval Method


This study evaluates shipboard marine X‐band radar (MR) near‐surface current and bathymetry measurements under shallow water conditions. The retrieval algorithm is based on the surface wave signal within three‐dimensional wave number frequency MR backscatter intensity variance spectra. The MR data were collected during a research cruise that investigated submesoscale processes and their impact on oil spill transport in the Louisiana Bight. The MR currents and bathymetry are validated using measurements from 500 GPS‐equipped surface drifters, a shipboard acoustic Doppler current profiler, and a shipboard single‐beam echo sounder. Earlier results from the same experiment but using a different set of sensors indicate strong upper ocean vertical current shear over a 3.5 hr period, despite only mild wind forcing. Here, the MR currents are derived as a function of wave number, providing a measure of vertical shear for the full duration of the cruise. Strong vertical shear is frequently observed, with a maximum difference of 0.42 m/s between the MR high (effective depth of urn:x-wiley:jgrc:media:jgrc23817:jgrc23817-math-00010.9 m) and low ( urn:x-wiley:jgrc:media:jgrc23817:jgrc23817-math-00022.4 m) wave number bins. Treating the drifter and echo sounder measurements as truth, the accuracies of the MR near‐surface currents and bathymetry are 0.04–0.07 m/s and 1.2 m (or 7% of the mean water depth). However, it is shown that urn:x-wiley:jgrc:media:jgrc23817:jgrc23817-math-000350% of the MR high wave number and drifter current differences is due to vertical shear. The shallow water MR near‐surface current accuracy thus matches findings from a previous deep water validation where vertical shear was much weaker.
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