Assessment of ICESat-2 for the recovery of ocean topography
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Assessment of ICESat-2 for the recovery of ocean topography

  • Author(s): Yu, Yao
  • Sandwell, David T
  • Gille, Sarah T
  • Bôas, Ana Beatriz Villas
  • et al.

Summary The Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite 2 (ICESat-2) laser altimetry mission, launched in September 2018, uses 6 parallel lidar tracks with very fine along-track resolution (15 m) to measure the topography of ice, land, and ocean surfaces. Here we assess the ability of ICESat-2 ocean data to recover oceanographic signals ranging from surface gravity waves to the marine geoid. We focus on a region in the tropical Pacific and study photon height data in both the wavenumber and space domain. Results show that an ICESat-2 single track can recover the marine geoid at wavelengths > 20 km which is similar to the best radar altimeter data. The wavelength and propagation direction of surface gravity waves are sometimes well resolved by using a combination of the strong and weak beams, which are separated by 90 m. We find higher than expected power in the 3 km to 20 km wavelength band where geoid and ocean signals should be small. This artificial power is caused by the projection of 2-D surface waves with ∼300 m wavelengths into longer wavelengths (5-10 km) because of the 1-D sampling along the narrow ICESat-2 profile. Thus ICESat-2 will not provide major improvements to the geoid recovery in most of the ocean.

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