Nowadays, spaceborne Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) has become a powerful tool for providing significant wave height (SWH). Traditionally, validation of SAR derived SWH has been carried out against buoy measurements or model outputs, which only yield an inter-comparison, but not an “absolute” validation. In this study, the triple collocation error model has been introduced in the validation of Envisat ASAR derived SWH products. SWH retrievals from ASAR wave mode using ESA’s algorithm are validated against in situ
buoy data, and wave model hindcast results from WaveWatch III wave model, covering a period of six years. From the triple collocation validation analysis, the impacts of the collocation distance and water depth on the error of ASAR SWH are discussed. It is found that the error of Envisat ASAR SWH product is linear to the collocation distance, and decrease with the decreasing collocation distance. Using the linear regression fit method, the absolute error of Envisat ASAR SWH was obtained with zero collocation distance. The absolute Envisat ASAR wave height error of 0.49 m is presented in deep and open ocean from this triple collocation validation work, in contrast to a larger error of 0.56 m in coastal and shallow waters. One of the reasons for the larger Envisat ASAR SWH errors in the coastal waters may be the inaccurate Modulation Transfer Function (MTF) adopted in the Envisat ASAR wave retrieval algorithm.
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