Testing the Quality of Sea-Level Data Using the GECCO Adjoint Assimilation Approach


Besides providing an estimate of the changing ocean state, an important result of the dynamically consistent estimating the circulation and climate of the ocean (ECCO) state estimate approach is the provision of a posterior model–data residuals which contain important information about elements in the assimilated observations that are inconsistent with the model dynamics or with the information present in other ocean data sets that are being used as constraints in the assimilation procedure. Based on decreased GECCO2 model–data residuals, upon using the altimeter data through the ESA climate change initiative (cci) sea-level (SL) project, we show here that the recently reprocessed ESA SL_cci altimeter data set (SL1) has been improved relative to the earlier AVISO altimetry data set and is now more consistent with the GECCO2 estimate and with the information about the changing ocean state embedded in other ocean data sets. The improvement can be shown to exist separately for both TOPEX/POSEIDON and ERS data sets. The study reveals that especially in regions characterized by small sea surface height (SSH) variability and small signal-to-noise ratio in the SSH data, improvements can be on the order of 30% of previously existing model–data residuals. However, in some regions we can find degradations, particulary in those where GECCO2 has little skill in representing the altimeter data and where evaluation of the products with GECCO2 is thus not advisable. Upon the assimilation of the new SL1 data set, the GECCO2 synthesis was further improved. However, adding the sea surface temperature (SST) from the SST_cci project as additional constrain, no further impact can be identified.

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The paper is an outcome of the ISSI workshop on Integrative study of sea level. The study was funded in part through the ESA CCI Sea Level Project (4000109872/13/I-NB SL-CCI-subcontract CLS/UOHCLSDOS-14.002-Sea Level CCI) and the BMBF-funded RACE project (FZ 03F0651A). The helpful comments of Nicolas Champollion and an anonymous referee are appreciated.

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Correspondence to Martin G. Scharffenberg.

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GECCO: German partner of the Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean effort

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Scharffenberg, M.G., Köhl, A. & Stammer, D. Testing the Quality of Sea-Level Data Using the GECCO Adjoint Assimilation Approach. Surv Geophys 38, 349–383 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10712-016-9401-3

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  • Altimeter observations
  • Data assimilation
  • Ocean state estimate
  • Ocean Modeling