Observing seasonal steric sea level variations with GRACE and satellite altimetry

Edited: 2011-02-21
TitleObserving seasonal steric sea level variations with GRACE and satellite altimetry
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsChambers, D.
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research (Oceans)
Date Published03/2006
Keywordsclimate, grace, jason, sea_level, steric
AbstractSea level rises and falls as the temperature and salinity of the water column varies, which is known as steric sea level. Sea level also changes as water mass is redistributed within the ocean or is added or removed. Satellite radar altimeters measure the combination of both effects, while the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) was designed to measure time variable gravity caused by movement of water mass. Theoretically, altimetry and GRACE data can be combined in order to compute the steric sea level variations. We test this by combining current GRACE and Jason 1 altimeter data and comparing against steric sea level observations. We will describe how to properly combine the altimetry and GRACE data, commenting on important corrections that need to be applied to each data type. Using empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis, we examine the leading modes of seasonal variability and find that using GRACE improves the ability to recover the dominant mode of steric sea level variability over using altimetry alone. The RMS error of the GRACE ocean mass variations is estimated to be about 2 cm of sea level at a 1000 km smoothing radius. Although this is larger than initially predicted from the GRACE mission, it is still significantly smaller than the recovered signal in several regions of the ocean.