An Observing System Simulation Experiment for the Calibration and Validation of the Surface Water Ocean Topography Sea Surface Height Measurement Using In Situ Platforms Academic Article uri icon


  • The wavenumber spectrum of sea surface height (SSH) is an important indicator of the dynamics of the ocean interior. While the SSH wavenumber spectrum has been well studied at mesoscale wavelengths and longer, using both in situ oceanographic measurements and satellite altimetry, it remains largely unknown for wavelengths less than ~70 km. The Surface Water Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite mission aims to resolve the SSH wavenumber spectrum at 15–150-km wavelengths, which is specified as one of the mission requirements. The mission calibration and validation (CalVal) requires the ground truth of a synoptic SSH field to resolve the targeted wavelengths, but no existing observational network is able to fulfill the task. A high-resolution global ocean simulation is used to conduct an observing system simulation experiment (OSSE) to identify the suitable oceanographic in situ measurements for SWOT SSH CalVal. After fixing 20 measuring locations (the minimum number for resolving 15–150-km wavelengths) along the SWOT swath, four instrument platforms were tested: pressure-sensor-equipped inverted echo sounders (PIES), underway conductivity–temperature–depth (UCTD) sensors, instrumented moorings, and underwater gliders. In the context of the OSSE, PIES was found to be an unsuitable tool for the target region and for SSH scales 15–70 km; the slowness of a single UCTD leads to significant aliasing by high-frequency motions at short wavelengths below ~30 km; an array of station-keeping gliders may meet the requirement; and an array of moorings is the most effective system among the four tested instruments for meeting the mission’s requirement. The results shown here warrant a prelaunch field campaign to further test the performance of station-keeping gliders.

publication date

  • February 2018