Satellite Altimetry


Since the launch of the Seasat mission 1978 Radar Altimetry provides important insights about the constitution of the sea surface. For this the altimeter emits a cone-shaped pulse which is going to be reflected by the sea surface. Depending on the property of the illuminated surface the shape and amplitude of the received signal varies. This is used to determine geophysical characteristics of the sea surface such as sea level, wave height, wind speed and other parameter.

Challenging are areas near the coast as reflection coming from land or ships contaminate the signal coming from the sea surface. Minimizing the effect of land contamination is one research topic at PSG with the aim to improve the quality of the receivable information. Other fields are

  • Processing of so called low-level datasets to receive better signals.
  • Development new models to describe the shape of received waveforms as close to reality as possible.
  • Development of new strategies to extract geophysical parameters in inland and coastal areas.

PSG conducted several research projects in the test areas of Mediterranean Sea and in the German Bight. In-Situ reference data of tide gauges and high resolution Ocean-models are available for validation of the altimetry data.

For further information or a short introduction in the thematic we recommend the radar altimetry tutorial of ESA and CNES which can be find at:

Contact person: M. Sc. Christopher Buchhaupt

Principle of radar altimetry (credits CNES/D. Ducros)