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Sea surface height variability measured by TOPEX is analyzed in the tropical Pacific Ocean by way of assimilation into a wind-driven, reduced-gravity, shallow water model using an approximate Kalman filter and smoother. The analysis results in an optimal fit of the dynamic model to the observations, providing a dynamically consistent interpolation of sea level and estimation of the circulation. Nearly 80% of the expected signal variance is accounted for by the model within 20° of the equator, and estimation uncertainty is substantially reduced by the voluminous observation. Notable features resolved by the analysis include seasonal changes associated with the North Equatorial Countercurrent and equatorial Kelvin and Rossby waves. Significant discrepancies are also found between the estimate and TOPEX measurements, especially near the eastern boundary. Improvements in the estimate made by the assimilation are validated by comparisons with independent tide gauge and current meter observations. The employed filter and smoother are based on approximately computed estimation error covariance matrices, utilizing a spatial transformation and an asymptotic approximation. The analysis demonstrates the practical utility of a quasi-optimal filter and smoother.