Wind observations from new satellite and research vessels agree


  • Mark A. Bourassa,

    1. Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-2840
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  • Michael H. Freilich,

  • David M. Legler,

  • W. Timothy Liu,

  • James J. O'Brien


An instrument designed to observe wind speeds and directions over the ocean surface has realized the promise suggested by the first spaceborne scatterometer on the SeaSAT satellite nearly 20 years ago. In 1996, NSCAT (NASA Scatterometer) rode into orbit on the Japanese satellite ADEOS and gathered 8.5 months of valuable wind data. NSCAT's unprecedented ability to determine wind speed and direction over 90% of the icefree global water surface with a 25 km resolution in 2 days should have profound impacts on oceanographic and meteorological applications. Prior to these applications, however, the uncertainty of NSCAT data must be determined from calibration and validation with in-situ observations. Comparison of NSCAT wind speeds and direction to those observed from research vessels shows an extremely good match. The analysis suggests that NSCAT winds appear to be sufficiently accurate for use in forcing ocean models.