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Optimal estimation of sea surface temperature from split-window observations

Merchant, C. J. ORCID:, Le Borgne, P., Marsouin, A. and Roquet, H. (2008) Optimal estimation of sea surface temperature from split-window observations. Remote Sensing of Environment, 112 (5). pp. 2469-2484. ISSN 0034-4257

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.rse.2007.11.011


Optimal estimation (OE) improves sea surface temperature (SST) estimated from satellite infrared imagery in the “split-window”, in comparison to SST retrieved using the usual multi-channel (MCSST) or non-linear (NLSST) estimators. This is demonstrated using three months of observations of the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) on the first Meteorological Operational satellite (Metop-A), matched in time and space to drifter SSTs collected on the global telecommunications system. There are 32,175 matches. The prior for the OE is forecast atmospheric fields from the Météo-France global numerical weather prediction system (ARPEGE), the forward model is RTTOV8.7, and a reduced state vector comprising SST and total column water vapour (TCWV) is used. Operational NLSST coefficients give mean and standard deviation (SD) of the difference between satellite and drifter SSTs of 0.00 and 0.72 K. The “best possible” NLSST and MCSST coefficients, empirically regressed on the data themselves, give zero mean difference and SDs of 0.66 K and 0.73 K respectively. Significant contributions to the global SD arise from regional systematic errors (biases) of several tenths of kelvin in the NLSST. With no bias corrections to either prior fields or forward model, the SSTs retrieved by OE minus drifter SSTs have mean and SD of − 0.16 and 0.49 K respectively. The reduction in SD below the “best possible” regression results shows that OE deals with structural limitations of the NLSST and MCSST algorithms. Using simple empirical bias corrections to improve the OE, retrieved minus drifter SSTs are obtained with mean and SD of − 0.06 and 0.44 K respectively. Regional biases are greatly reduced, such that the absolute bias is less than 0.1 K in 61% of 10°-latitude by 30°-longitude cells. OE also allows a statistic of the agreement between modelled and measured brightness temperatures to be calculated. We show that this measure is more efficient than the current system of confidence levels at identifying reliable retrievals, and that the best 75% of satellite SSTs by this measure have negligible bias and retrieval error of order 0.25 K.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:No Reading authors. Back catalogue items
Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:33733
Uncontrolled Keywords:Sea surface temperature (SST); Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR); Retrieval theory

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