In situ Absolute Calibration and Validation: A Link from Coastal to Open-Ocean Altimetry

  • P. Bonnefond
  • B. J. Haines
  • C. Watson


The determination of global and regional mean sea level variations with accuracies better than 1 mm/year is an important yet challenging problem, the resolution of which is central to the current debate on climate change and its impact on the environment. To address this, highly accurate time series from both satellite altimetry and tide gauges are needed. In both cases, the desired accuracy represents a significant challenge for the geodetic community. From the perspective of space borne altimetry, systematic errors from the orbit, reference frame and altimeter systems are all important limiting factors and must be minimized in order to derive data products of greatest geophysical value. Indeed, the objective for the overall accuracy of future altimeter systems is 1-cm (RMS) along with a stability of 1 mm/year. From the terrestrial perspective, estimating the vertical velocity of tide gauge sites to sufficient accuracy is also one of the most important and challenging problems in modern geodesy. Essential to reaching these goals in the measurement of mean sea level variation are ultra-precise validation and calibration techniques, including in situ absolute calibration experiments. Most of the present calibration experiments are on or near the coast, reinforcing the need for developing such techniques to unify the altimetric error budget for both open-ocean and local (coastal) conditions.


Altimetry GPS In situ instrumentation Reference frame Sea level 


ALT-A or B

Side A or B of the TOPEX altimeter


Advanced Microwave Radiometer (OSTM/Jason-2)




Colorado Centre for Astrodynamics Research


Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Geodynamiques et Astronomiques


Continuous Global Positioning System


Centre National d’Étude Spatiales


Colorado University


Détermination d’Orbite et Radiopositionnement Intégrés par Satellite


European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts


Electro Magnetic


Environmental Satellite

ERS (1 & 2)

European Remote Sensing


European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites


French Transportable Laser Ranging System


Geographically Correlated Errors


Geophysical Data Records (prefix O = Operational, I = Interim)


Geosat Follow-On


GLObal NAvigation Satellite System


Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites


Global Navigation Satellite Systems


Global Positioning System


Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment


Goddard Space Flight Centre


International Earth Rotation Service


Interim Geophysical Data Record


Institut Géographique National


International GPS Service for geodynamics


Istituto per lo Studio della Dinamica delle Grandi Masse / Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche


International Terrestrial Reference Frame


Jason-1 Microwave Radiometer


Jet Propulsion Laboratory


Merged Geophysical Data Record


Maximum Likelihood Estimator


National Aeronautics and Space Administration


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


Operational Geophysical Data Record


Orbit Minus Range


Ocean Surface Topography Mission


Ocean Surface Topography Science Team


Precision Orbit Determination


Precision Orbit Ephemerides


Root mean square


Root Sum of Squares


Service Hydrographique et Océanographique de la Marine


Satellite Laser Ranging


Scanning Point Target Response


Sea State Bias


Sea Surface Height


Significant Wave Height




TOPEX Microwave Radiometer


Time of Closest Approach


Ultra Stable Oscillator


Very Long Baseline Interferometry


Very Small Aperture Terminal


Water Vapor Radiometer



This chapter is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Yves Ménard for his deep involvement in the calibration and validation activities. The authors collectively acknowledge other members of their teams that have contributed to the design, operation and analyses of the calibration sites. Bass Strait: Neil White, Richard Coleman, John Church, Paul Tregoning, Jason Zhang, and Reed Burgette. Corsica: Olivier Laurain, Pierre Exertier, François Barlier, Gwénaële Jan, Yves Ménard, Claude Gaillemin, and the FTLRS team. Harvest: Ed Christensen (posthumous), George Born, Dan Kubitschek, Steve Gill, Dave Stowers, Plains Exploration and Production. A portion of this work was conducted by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under contract with NASA.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur – GeoAzurGrasseFrance
  2. 2.Jet Propulsion LaboratoryCalifornia Institute of TechnologyPasadenaUSA
  3. 3.Surveying and Spatial Science Group, School of Geography and Environmental StudiesUniversity of TasmaniaHobartAustralia

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