It is widely believed that altimetry-derived sea surface heights (SSHs) in coastal zones are seriously degraded due to land contamination in altimeter waveforms from non-marine surfaces or due to inhomogeneous sea state conditions. Spurious peaks superimposed in radar waveforms adversely impact waveform retracking and hence require tailored algorithms to mitigate this problem. Here, we present an improved method to decontaminate coastal waveforms based on the waveform modification concept. SSHs within 10 km offshore are calculated from Jason-2 data by a 20% threshold retracker using decontaminated waveforms (DW-TR) and compared with those using original waveforms and modified waveforms in four study regions. We then compare our results with retracked SSHs in the sensor geophysical data record (SGDR) and with the state-of-the-art PISTACH (Prototype Innovant de Système de Traitement pour les Applications Côtières et l’Hydrologie) and ALES (Adaptive Leading Edge Subwaveform) products. Our result indicates that the DW-TR is the most robust retracker in the 0–10 km coastal band and provides consistent accuracy up to 1 km away from the coastline. In the four test regions, the DW-TR retracker outperforms other retrackers, with the smallest averaged standard deviations at 15 cm and 20 cm, as compared against the EGM08 (Earth Gravitational Model 2008) geoid model and tide gauge data, respectively. For the SGDR products, only the ICE retracker provides competitive SSHs for coastal applications. Subwaveform retrackers such as ICE3, RED3 and ALES perform well beyond 8 km offshore, but seriously degrade in the 0–8 km strip along the coast.
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