This study focuses on the improved estimation of mesoscale surface ocean circulation obtained by merging TOPEX/Poseidon (T/P) and ERS-1 and -2 altimeter measurements between October 1992 and May 1998. Once carefully intercalibrated and homogenized, these data are merged through an advanced global objective analysis method that allows us to correct for residual long wavelength errors and uses realistic correlation scales of ocean dynamics. The high-resolution (0.25°×0.25°) merged T/P+ERS-1 and -2 sea level anomaly maps provide more homogeneous and reduced mapping errors than either individual data set and more realistic sea level and geostrophic velocity statistics than T/P data alone. Furthermore, the merged T/P+ERS-1 and -2 maps yield eddy kinetic energy (EKE) levels 30% higher than maps of T/P alone. They also permit realistic global estimates of east and north components of EKE and their seasonal variations, to study EKE sources better. A comparison of velocity statistics with World Ocean Circulation Experiment surface drifters in the North Atlantic shows very good agreement. Comparison with contemporary current meter data in various oceanic regimes also produces comparable levels of energy and similar ratios of northward and eastward energy, showing that the maps are suitable to studying anisotropy. The T/P + ERS zonal and meridional components of the mapped currents usually present comparable rms variability, even though the variability in the Atlantic is more isotropic than that in the Pacific, which exhibits strong zonal changes. The EKE map presents a very detailed description, presumably never before achieved at a global scale. Pronounced seasonal changes of the EKE are found in many regions, notably the northeastern Pacific, the northeastern and northwestern Atlantic, the tropical oceans, and the zonally extended bands centered near 20°S in the Indian and western Pacific Oceans and at 20°N in the northwestern Pacific.
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