University Of Tasmania

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Development of a GNSS/INS buoy array in preparation for SWOT validation in Bass Strait

In preparation for validation of the swath-based altimetry mission (Surface Water Oceanography Topography, SWOT), we developed a buoy array, equipped with Global Navigation Satellite System/Inertial Navigation System, capable of accurately observing sea surface height (SSH), wave information and tropospheric delay. Here we present results from an 8-day trial deployment at five locations along a Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich (S6MF) ground track in Bass Strait. A triplet buoy group including two new buoys (Mk-VI) and a single predecessor (Mk-IV) were deployed in proximity to the historic Jason-series comparison point. SSH solutions compared against an in-situ mooring suggest the new buoys were working at an equivalent precision of ~1.5 cm to the previous design (MK-IV). At 10-km spacing along the S6MF track, the buoy array was shown to observe the progression of oceanographic and meteorological phenomena. Tidal analysis of the buoy array indicated moderate spatial variability in the shallow water tidal constituents, with differences in the instantaneous tidal height of up to ~0.2 m across the 40-km track. Further, tidal resonance within Bass Strait was observed to vary, most probably modulated by atmospheric conditions, yet only partially captured by an existing dynamic atmospheric correction product. A preliminary investigation into the spatial scale of the buoy error based on observed/inferred geostrophic currents with our present buoy array configuration suggests that the signal-noise ratio of the array became significant at 20-km spacing in Bass Strait. Finally, as an illustrative comparison between the buoy array and high resolution S6MF data, a single cycle was compared. The wet tropospheric delay observed by the S6MF radiometer exhibited some potential land contamination in the deployed area, while the 1-Hz and 20-Hz significant wave height from S6MF appeared within mission requirements. Generally good agreement between buoy and altimeter SSH was observed. However, subtle differences between the altimeter and the buoy sea level anomaly series warrants further investigation with additional cycles from a sustained deployment in the area. We conclude that the buoy array offers a useful geodetic tool to help quantify and understand intra-swath variability in the context of the SWOT mission.


Publication title

Frontiers in Marine Science








School of Natural Sciences



Place of publication

Frontiers Research Foundation

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Oceanic processes (excl. in the Antarctic and Southern Ocean); Expanding knowledge in the earth sciences

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