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Retrievals of sea surface temperature from infrared imagery: origin and form of systematic errors

Merchant, C.J. ORCID:, Horrocks, L.A., Eyre, J.R. and O'Carroll, A.G. (2006) Retrievals of sea surface temperature from infrared imagery: origin and form of systematic errors. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 132. pp. 1205-1223. ISSN 1477-870X

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1256/qj.05.143


We show that retrievals of sea surface temperature from satellite infrared imagery are prone to two forms of systematic error: prior error (familiar from the theory of atmospheric sounding) and error arising from nonlinearity. These errors have different complex geographical variations, related to the differing geographical distributions of the main geophysical variables that determine clear-sky brightness-temperatures over the oceans. We show that such errors arise as an intrinsic consequence of the form of the retrieval (rather than as a consequence of sub-optimally specified retrieval coefficients, as is often assumed) and that the pattern of observed errors can be simulated in detail using radiative-transfer modelling. The prior error has the linear form familiar from atmospheric sounding. A quadratic equation for nonlinearity error is derived, and it is verified that the nonlinearity error exhibits predominantly quadratic behaviour in this case.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:33738
Publisher:Royal Meteorological Society

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