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Radio Science

The use of reflected GPS signals to retrieve ocean surface wind speeds in tropical cyclones

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Abstract

Since the first intentional acquisition of GPS signals reflected from water bodies, one of the objectives which has driven the research is to determine whether the acquired signal can provide useful geophysical information about the reflecting surface. One obvious condition of considerable interest is ocean surface wind speed. Theory suggested that the reflection technique, a form of bistatic RADAR, would be sensitive to surface roughness which in turn is driven by wind speed. This paper reports the results derived from data acquired over the past decade of applying the GPS reflection technique to ocean surface winds, particularly ocean surface winds in tropical cyclones. Examples of wind speed retrievals will be given for some illustrative cases of hurricanes and tropical storms. The results from several hurricanes and tropical storms on how the signal was calibrated will be presented. In addition, a quantitative comparison will be given between dropsondes deployed by NOAA during the storms and GPS reflection derived wind speeds taken at the same time. Conditions in which the GPS technique offers excellent comparisons as well as examples where the comparison is not so good will be presented. Suggestions will be given as to when the GPS technique can be used with confidence and when it is likely to be at variance with other methods.

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