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Keywords:

  • QuikSCAT winds;
  • Southern Ocean;
  • wind evaluation

[1] Space-based scatterometer instruments provide crucial surface wind measurements with high resolution over global oceans. Midlatitude regions in the Southern Ocean are unique places to evaluate scatterometer winds at high-wind bands because these regions host the strongest wind fields at the ocean surface. The objective of this study is to evaluate high wind speeds observed by Quick Scatterometer (QuikSCAT) wind measurements and produced by simulation models and compare them with weather station data in the Southern Ocean. The occurrence and intensity of high-wind events in scatterometer measurements are compared with that of reanalysis winds, and the spatial and seasonal variability of high-wind characteristics is examined. The results show that the speeds of scatterometer winds are similar to model simulations in the monthly mean field but consistently stronger than both European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts and National Centers for Environmental Prediction/National Center for Atmospheric Research winds in high-wind bands. When scatterometer winds are compared with the weather station observations at Macquarie Island, the present study finds no systematic bias at high-wind bands across all months. However, both weather station and QuikSCAT winds are higher than the model simulations in high-wind bands most of the time. This suggests that model simulations may underestimate surface wind strength in high-wind bands. Such underestimation would lead to up to an 80% reduction in energy flux between the atmosphere and ocean. Even though high winds occur only sporadically and the reanalysis underestimation in high wind speed is not in itself of great magnitude, they have a significant impact on global climate.