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Jinbo Wang
,
Lee-Lueng Fu
,
Bruce Haines
,
Matthias Lankhorst
,
Andrew J. Lucas
,
J. Thomas Farrar
,
Uwe Send
,
Christian Meinig
,
Oscar Schofield
,
Richard Ray
,
Matthew Archer
,
David Aragon
,
Sebastien Bigorre
,
Yi Chao
,
John Kerfoot
,
Robert Pinkel
,
David Sandwell
, and
Scott Stalin

Abstract

The future Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission aims to map sea surface height (SSH) in wide swaths with an unprecedented spatial resolution and subcentimeter accuracy. The instrument performance needs to be verified using independent measurements in a process known as calibration and validation (Cal/Val). The SWOT Cal/Val needs in situ measurements that can make synoptic observations of SSH field over an O(100) km distance with an accuracy matching the SWOT requirements specified in terms of the along-track wavenumber spectrum of SSH error. No existing in situ observing system has been demonstrated to meet this challenge. A field campaign was conducted during September 2019–January 2020 to assess the potential of various instruments and platforms to meet the SWOT Cal/Val requirement. These instruments include two GPS buoys, two bottom pressure recorders (BPR), three moorings with fixed conductivity–temperature–depth (CTD) and CTD profilers, and a glider. The observations demonstrated that 1) the SSH (hydrostatic) equation can be closed with 1–3 cm RMS residual using BPR, CTD mooring and GPS SSH, and 2) using the upper-ocean steric height derived from CTD moorings enable subcentimeter accuracy in the California Current region during the 2019/20 winter. Given that the three moorings are separated at 10–20–30 km distance, the observations provide valuable information about the small-scale SSH variability associated with the ocean circulation at frequencies ranging from hourly to monthly in the region. The combined analysis sheds light on the design of the SWOT mission postlaunch Cal/Val field campaign.

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