On the Quality of Real-Time Altimeter Gridded Fields: Comparison with In Situ Data

The timeliness of satellite altimeter measurements has a significant effect on their value for operational oceanography. In this paper, an Observing System Experiment (OSE) approach is used to assess the quality of real-time altimeter products, a key issue for robust monitoring and forecasting of the ocean state. In addition, the effect of two improved geophysical corrections and the number of missions that are combined in the altimeter products are also analyzed. The improved tidal and atmospheric corrections have a significant effect in coastal areas (0\textendash100 km from the shore), and a comparison with tide gauge observations shows a slightly better agreement with the gridded delayed-time sea level anomalies (SLAs) with two altimeters [Jason-1 and European Remote Sensing Satellite-2 (ERS-2)/Envisat] using the new geophysical corrections (mean square differences in percent of tide gauge variance of 35.3\%) than those with four missions [Jason-1, ERS/Envisat, Ocean Topography Experiment (TOPEX)/Poseidoninterlaced, and Geosat Follow-On] but using the old corrections (36.7\%). In the deep ocean, however, the correction improvements have little influence. The performance of fast delivery products versus delayed-time data is compared using independent in situ data (tide gauge and drifter data). It clearly highlights the degradation of real-time SLA maps versus the delayed-time SLA maps: four altimeters are needed in real time to get the similar quality performance as two altimeters in delayed time (sea level error misfit around 36\%, and zonal and meridional velocity estimation errors of 27\% and 33\%, respectively). This study proves that the continuous improvement of geophysical corrections is very important, and that it is essential to stay above a minimum threshold of four available altimetric missions to capture the main space and time oceanic scales in fast delivery products.
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Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology
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