Due to the smaller ground footprint and higher spatial resolution of the Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) mode, altimeter observations from the Sentinel-3 satellites are expected to be overall more accurate in coastal areas than conventional nadir altimetry. The performance of Sentinel-3A in the coastal region of southwest England was assessed by comparing SAR mode observations of significant wave height against those of Pseudo Low Resolution Mode (PLRM). Sentinel-3A observations were evaluated against in-situ observations from a network of 17 coastal wave buoys, which provided continuous time-series of hourly values of significant wave height, period and direction. As the buoys are evenly distributed along the coast of southwest England, they are representative of a broad range of morphological configurations and swell conditions against which to assess Sentinel-3 SAR observations. The analysis indicates that SAR observations outperform PLRM within 15 km from the coast. Within that region, regression slopes between SAR and buoy observations are close to the 1:1 relation, and the average root mean square error between the two is
m. On the other hand, regression slopes for PLRM observations rapidly deviate from the 1:1 relation, while the average root mean square error increases to
m. The analysis did not identify any dependence of the bias between SAR and in-situ observation on the swell period or direction. The validation is based on a synergistic approach which combines satellite and in-situ observations with innovative use of numerical wave model output to help inform the choice of comparison regions. Such an approach could be successfully applied in future studies to assess the performance of SAR observations over other combinations of coastal regions and altimeters.
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