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L. C. Bender III
S. D. Howden
D. Dodd
, and
N. L. Guinasso Jr.


In August 2005 the eye of Hurricane Katrina passed 49 n mi to the west of a 3-m discus buoy operated by the Central Gulf of Mexico Ocean Observing System (CenGOOS). Buoy motions were measured with a strapped-down 6 degrees of freedom accelerometer, a three-axis magnetometer, and a survey-grade GPS receiver. The significant wave heights were computed from the buoy’s accelerometer record and from the dual-frequency GPS measurements that were processed in two different ways. The first method was postprocessed kinematic (PPK) GPS, which requires another GPS receiver at a fixed known location, and the other was precise point positioning (PPP) GPS, which is another postprocessed positioning technique that yields absolute rather than differential positions. Unlike inertial measurement units, either GPS technique can be used to obtain both waves and water levels. The purpose of this note is to demonstrate the excellent reliability and accuracy of both methods for determining wave heights and periods from a GPS record. When the motion of the GPS antenna is properly understood as the motion of the buoy deck and not the true vertical motion of the sea surface, the GPS wave heights are as reliable as a strapped-down 1D accelerometer.

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