Encyclopedia of Coastal Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Charles W. Finkl, Christopher Makowski

Altimeter Surveys, Coastal Tides, and Shelf Circulation

  • Guoqi HanEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-48657-4_7-2


A conventional radar altimeter aboard a satellite is a nadir-looking active microwave sensor. Its signal pulse, transmitted vertically downward, reflects from the ocean surface back to an altimeter antenna. The round-trip time and the propagation speed of the electromagnetic waves are used to compute the range between the antenna and the ocean surface.

From the altimeter-measured range, the instantaneous sea surface relative to a reference surface, such as an ellipsoid, can be determined if a satellite orbit relative to the reference surface is known. With the knowledge of the oceanic geoid, the sea surface topography relative to the geoid due to ocean dynamic circulation including the temporal averages can be obtained. Although the geoid is not well determined yet, repeated observations can provide a measurement of the temporal variability of the sea surface height since the geoid can be treated as time-invariant for oceanographic applications.

Oceanographic applications of...

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This work is partially supported by the Surface Water and Ocean Topography – Canada (SWOT-C) Program, Canadian Space Agency.


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fisheries and Oceans CanadaNorthwest Atlantic Fisheries CentreSt. John’sCanada