SAR altimetry data as a new source for swell monitoring

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This article shows the first spectral analysis of fully-focused Synthetic Aperture Radar (FFSAR) altimetry data with the objective of studying backscatter modulations caused by swells. Swell waves distort the backscatter in altimetry radargrams by means of velocity and range bunching. These swell signatures are visible in the tail of the waveform. By locally normalizing the backscatter and projecting the waveforms on an along-/cross-track grid, satellite altimetry can be exploited to retrieve swell information. The analysis of FFSAR spectra is supported by buoy-derived swell-wave spectra of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration network. Using cases with varying wave characteristics, we discuss the altimetry-derived spectra and relate them to what is known from side-looking SAR imaging systems. Besides having a vast amount of additional data for swell-wave analysis, altimeter data can also help us to better understand the side-looking SAR spectra.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2021GL096224
Number of pages11
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number7
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2022


  • swell waves
  • FFSAR altimetry
  • velocity bunching
  • range bunching
  • spectral analysis


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