A RIP-based SAR retracker and its application in North East Atlantic with Sentinel-3


Just as CryoSat-2, Sentinel-3 embarks on board a radar altimeter (SRAL) with the novel Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) mode that enables higher resolution and more accurate altimeter-derived parameters in the coastal zone, thanks to the reduced along-track footprint. Exploiting the SAR data in the recent years, many researchers have already proven that the performance of SAR altimetry with specific coastal retrackers is superior to collocated Pseudo-Low Resolution Mode (PLRM) coastal altimetry algorithms but they also pointed out that residual errors due to land contamination are still present in the very proximity of the land (0–3 km). The objective of this work is to further improve these results by exploiting extra information provided by SAR altimeters, namely the so-called Range Integrated Power (RIP), the new waveform built by a simple integration of the Doppler beams in the range direction. The RIP characterizes the backscattering state of the ground cell, towards which all the Doppler beams have been steered. These developments lead to a new retracker, here coined SAMOSA++, in which the RIP, as computed from the L1B-S data, is converted into a surface backscattering profile and directly integrated in the SAMOSA retracker as part of the model formulation itself. In this way, the modified SAMOSA model is automatically and autonomously able to cope with the different return waveform shapes from different surface types: either diffusive or specular. The mean square slope computed from the RIP is also estimated, representing a new output of the retracker. The performance of this new retracker is here cross-compared against its previous version, SAMOSA+, and against the standard Sentinel-3 marine PDGS (Payload Data Ground Segment) SAR retracker (SAMOSA2) in both coastal zone and open ocean in order to ensure a seamless transition between these zones. The new retracker SAMOSA++ is validated in the North East Atlantic region, where appropriate in situ validation data are available. The retrievals from the new retracker are cross-compared against the network of tide gauges and buoys in the German Bight and versus the output of the GCOAST Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht (HZG) regional circulation and wave model. In addition, sea level estimates derived with different ocean tide and wet path delay geophysical correction models are compared. Results indicate that in this region the best geophysical correction models are the FES2014b tide model and the GPD+ wet tropospheric correction that incorporates data from the Sentinel-3 on-board radiometer. Analyses show that both SAMOSA+ and SAMOSA++ ensure the continuity of the PDGS SAR Marine retracker in the open ocean, leading to clear improvements in the coastal zone, larger for SAMOSA++ than for SAMOSA+. In summary, the new SAMOSA++ retracker retrieves more accurate altimetric parameters in the coastal zone, with a better consistency with respect to regional ocean models and in situ data.
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