Marine Science Faculty Publications

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The quality of TOPEX/POSEIDON determinations of the global scale dynamic ocean topography have been assessed by determining mean topography solutions for successive 10-day repeat cycles and by examining the temporal changes in the sea surface topography to identify known features. The assessment is based on the analysis of TOPEX altimeter data for cycles 1 through 36. Important errors in the tide model used to correct the altimeter data have been identified. The errors were reduced significantly by use of a new tide model derived with the TOPEX/POSEIDON measurements. Maps of the global 1-year mean topography, produced using four of the most accurate models of the marine geoid, show that the largest error in the dynamic ocean topography is now the uncertainty in the geoid. Temporal variations in the spatially smoothed maps of the annual sea surface topography show expected features, such as the known annual hemispherical sea surface rise and fall and the seasonal variability due to monsoon influence in the Indian Ocean. Changes in the sequence of 10-day topography maps show the development and propagation of an equatorial Kelvin wave in the Pacific beginning in December 1992 with a propagation velocity of approximately 3 m/s. The observations are consistent with observed changes in the equatorial trade winds, and with tide gauge and other in situ observations of the strengthening of the 1992 El Niño. Comparison of TOPEX-determined sea surface height at points near oceanic tide gauges shows agreement at the 4 cm RMS level over the tropical Pacific. The results show that the TOPEX altimeter data set can be used to map the ocean surface with a temporal resolution of 10 days and an accuracy which is consistent with traditional in situ methods for the determination of sea level variations.

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Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, v. 99, issue C12, p. 24605-24617

Copyright 1994 by the American Geophysical Union.