The sea surface essentially contains multiscale roughness with capillary waves of many sizes riding on large-scale waves that are also of many sizes. It is instructive to exploit the effect of radar frequency and observation geometry on the effective roughness scales responsible for radar backscattering so that the scattering mechanism and the scattering source can be better understood and quantitated. Based on common sea spectra and a theoretical scattering model, an attempt is made to attain the above objective. Model predictions, with selective roughness scales, are compared with wide validation data, including L-band radar observations, and predictions from C-band and Ku-band empirical models: geophysical model function (CMOD7) and NASA scatterometer (NSCAT-4) for C- and Ku-bands at different incident angles. Numerical results indicate that effective roughness scales for radar backscattering vary with radar frequency and incidence angle and are related to a portion of sea spectral components; the low limit of which is linearly proportional to the Bragg wavenumber determined by frequency and incidence angle, and the scale factor of the linear relationship is about 0.05. In addition, the root mean square (RMS) height and the correlation length of the effective roughness (i.e., scattering source) derived from the effective roughness decrease gradually as incident angle increases. In particular, the correlation length also linearly depends on the effective wavelength with a coefficient of 3.2. Moreover, these two coefficients are both independent of wind speed, radar frequency, and incident angle. These findings also reveal the essential properties of the spectral components contributing to radar backscattering and its variation with radar frequency and incident angle.
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