Although generally accurate, the quality of SeaWinds on QuikSCAT scatterometer ocean vector winds is compromised by certain natural phenomena and retrieval algorithm limitations. This dissertation addresses three main contributers to scatterometer estimate error: poor ambiguity selection, estimate uncertainty at low wind speeds, and rain corruption. A quality assurance (QA) analysis performed on SeaWinds data suggests that about 5% of SeaWinds data contain ambiguity selection errors and that scatterometer estimation error is correlated with low wind speeds and rain events.

Ambiguity selection errors are partly due to the "nudging" step (initialization from outside data). A sophisticated new non-nudging ambiguity selection approach produces generally more consistent wind than the nudging method in moderate wind conditions. The non-nudging method selects 93% of the same ambiguities as the nudged data, validating both techniques, and indicating that ambiguity selection can be accomplished without nudging.

Variability at low wind speeds is analyzed using tower-mounted scatterometer data. According to theory, below a threshold wind speed, the wind fails to generate the surface roughness necessary for wind measurement. A simple analysis suggests the existence of the threshold in much of the tower-mounted scatterometer data. However, the backscatter does not "go to zero" beneath the threshold in an uncontrolled environment as theory suggests, but rather has a mean drop and higher variability below the threshold.

Rain is the largest weather-related contributer to scatterometer error, affecting approximately 4% to 10% of SeaWinds data. A simple model formed via comparison of co-located TRMM PR and SeaWinds measurements characterizes the average effect of rain on SeaWinds backscatter. The model is generally accurate to within 3 dB over the tropics. The rain/wind backscatter model is used to simultaneously retrieve wind and rain from SeaWinds measurements. The simultaneous wind/rain (SWR) estimation procedure can improve wind estimates during rain, while providing a scatterometer-based rain rate estimate. SWR also affords improved rain flagging for low to moderate rain rates. QuikSCAT-retrieved rain rates correlate well with TRMM PR instantaneous measurements and TMI monthly rain averages. SeaWinds rain measurements can be used to supplement data from other rain-measuring instruments, filling spatial and temporal gaps in coverage.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Electrical and Computer Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





scatterometer, wind retrieval, geophysics, remote sensing, Karhunen Loeve, rain, quality assurance, SeaWinds, QuikSCAT, ambiguity selection, low wind speed threshold, maximum likelihood