Accuracy Assessment of the TOPEX/Poseidon Ionosphere Measurements

We conducted an assessment of the TOPEX dual-frequency nadir ionosphere observations in the TOPEX/Poseidon (T/P) GDR by comparing TOPEX with the Center for Orbit Determination in Europe (CODE) Global Ionosphere Map (GIM), the climatological model IRI2001, and the DORIS (onboard T/P) relative ionosphere delays. We investigated the TOPEX (TOPEX Side A and TOPEX Side B altimeters, TSA and TSB, respectively) ionosphere observations for the time period 1995–2001, covering periods of low, intermediate, and high solar activity. Here, we use absolute path delays (at Ku-band frequency of the TOPEX altimeter and with positive signs) rather than Total Electron Content (TEC). We found significant biases between GIM and TOPEX (GIM–TOPEX) nadir ionosphere path delays: -8.1 \textpm 0.4 \{mm\} formal uncertainties and equivalent to 3.7 TECu) and -9.0 \textpm 0.7 \{mm\} (4.1 TECu) for TSA and TSB, respectively, indicating that the TOPEX path delay is longer (or with higher TECu) than GIM. The estimated relative biases vary with latitude and with daytime or nighttime passes. The estimated biases in the path delays (DORIS–TOPEX) are: -10.9 \textpm 0.4 \{mm\} (5.0 TECu) and -14.8 \textpm 0.6 \{mm\} (6.7 TECu), for TSA and TSB, respectively. There is a distinct jump of the DORIS path delays (-3.9 \textpm 0.7 \{mm\}, TSA delays longer than TSB delays) at the TSB altimeter switch in February 1999, presumably due to inconsistent DORIS processing. The origin of the bias between GIM (GPS, L-band) and TOPEX (radar altimeter, Ku-band) is currently unknown and warrants further investigation. Finally, the estimated drift rates between GIM and TSA, DORIS and TSA ionosphere path delays for the 6-year study span are -0.4 mm/yr and -0.8 mm/yr, respectively, providing a possible error bound for the TOPEX/Poseidon sea level observations during periods of low and intermediate solar activity.
Year of Publication
Marine Geodesy
Number of Pages