Cross-spectral analysis of SAR altimetry waveform tails

Marcel Kleinherenbrink, Frithjof Ehlers, Sergi Hernandez, Frederic Nouguier, Ourania Altiparmaki, Florian Schlembach, Bertrand Chapron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Until recently, intensity modulations in synthetic aperture radar (SAR) altimetry waveform tails have been considered a nuisance for geophysical-parameter retrieval. These modulations are actually predictable and might be exploited using a spectral analysis of the waveform tails. After Altiparmaki et al. (2022), a more elaborated analysis is performed to improve the interpretation of these SAR altimeter spectra. A fast numerical model is developed to explain the modulation mechanisms in focused SAR altimetry waveform tails. Using numerical solutions, standard analytical closed-form solutions, are demonstrated to be invalid to retrieve ocean-wave-spectra retrievals from nadir altimeters. Although not valid, a closed-form derivation provides intuitive insights about the information contained in an SAR altimetry cross-spectrum. Under moderate environmental conditions (significant wave heights (SWHs) of ∼2 m), a closed-form solution might still be useful to infer swell-wave spectra from swath-altimetry SAR spectra at incident angles of ∼4°. Comparable to side-looking SAR ocean processing, the cross-spectral analysis for nadir signals reduces noise and might remove the 180° ambiguity of the wave direction. Since the synthetic aperture length of nadir altimeters is larger than sidelooking imaging SARs (e.g., Sentinel-1, RadarSat, Gaofen-3), sublook processing can be performed to compute multiple cross-spectra for the same scene. With a slightly changing observation geometry, the cross-spectra reveal slightly different parts of the ocean-wave spectrum. The resulting stack of cross-spectra can thus be used to improve the retrieval of ocean-wave parameters. Retrieved ocean-wave parameters shall then enhance the sampling of the global wave field, but also serve to advance more consistent sea-state-bias corrections.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4206615
Number of pages15
JournalIEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository ‘You share, we take care!’ – Taverne project
Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • Altimetry
  • Backscatter
  • Cross-spectral analysis
  • Modulation
  • Numerical models
  • Ocean-wave spectra
  • SAR altimetry
  • SAR spectra
  • Sea surface
  • Sentinel-6
  • Synthetic aperture radar
  • Tail


Dive into the research topics of 'Cross-spectral analysis of SAR altimetry waveform tails'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this