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Ocean Radar Backscatter Relationship with Near-Surface Winds: A Case Study during FASINEX

F. LiJet Propulsion Laboratory, California Insitute of Technology, Pasadena, California

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W. LargeNational Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

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W. ShawNaval postgraduate School, Monterey, California

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K. DavidsonNaval postgraduate School, Monterey, California

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E. J. WalshGoddard Space Flight Center, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Greenbelt, Maryland

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Abstract

A case study of ocean radar backscatter dependence on near-surface wind and wind stress is presented using the data obtained on 18 February 1986 during the Frontal Air-Sea Interaction Experiment. Our interest in this case stems from the particular wind-wave conditions and their variations across a sharp sea surface temperature front. These are described. Most importantly, the small change in wind speed across the front cannot account for the large change in wind stress implying significant changes in the drag coefficient and surface roughness length. When compared with previous results, the corresponding changes in radar backscatter cross-section at 50° and 20° angles of incidence were consistent with the observed variations in wind stress, but inconsistent with both the mean wind and the equivalent neutral wind. Although not definitive, the results strengthen the hypothesis that radar backscatter is closely correlated to wind stress, and therefore, could be used for remote sensing of the wind stress itself over the global oceans.

Abstract

A case study of ocean radar backscatter dependence on near-surface wind and wind stress is presented using the data obtained on 18 February 1986 during the Frontal Air-Sea Interaction Experiment. Our interest in this case stems from the particular wind-wave conditions and their variations across a sharp sea surface temperature front. These are described. Most importantly, the small change in wind speed across the front cannot account for the large change in wind stress implying significant changes in the drag coefficient and surface roughness length. When compared with previous results, the corresponding changes in radar backscatter cross-section at 50° and 20° angles of incidence were consistent with the observed variations in wind stress, but inconsistent with both the mean wind and the equivalent neutral wind. Although not definitive, the results strengthen the hypothesis that radar backscatter is closely correlated to wind stress, and therefore, could be used for remote sensing of the wind stress itself over the global oceans.

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