Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans

Toward the true near-surface wind speed: Error modeling and calibration using triple collocation


  • Ad Stoffelen


Wind is a very important geophysical variable to accurately measure. However, a statistical phenomenon important for the validation or calibration of winds is the small dynamic range relative to the typical measurement uncertainty, i.e., the generally small signal-to-noise ratio. In such cases, pseudobiases may occur when standard validation or calibration methods are applied, such as regression or bin-average analyses. Moreover, nonlinear transformation of random error, for instance, between wind components and speed and direction, may give rise to substantial pseudobiases. In fact, validation or calibration can only be done properly when the full error characteristics of the data are known. In practice, the problem is that prior knowledge on the error characteristics is seldom available. In this paper we show that simultaneous error modeling and calibration can be achieved by using triple collocations. This is a fundamental finding that is generally relevant to all geophysical validation. To illustrate the statistical analysis using triple collocations, in situ, ERS scatterometer, and forecast model winds are used. Wind component error analysis is shown to be more convenient than wind speed and direction error analysis. The anemometer winds from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) buoys are shown to have the largest error variance, followed by the scatterometer and the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) forecast model winds proved the most accurate. When using the in situ winds as a reference, the scatterometer wind components are biased low by −4%. The NCEP forecast model winds are found to be biased high by −6%, After applying a higher-order calibration procedure an improved ERS scatterometer wind retrieval is proposed. The systematic and random error analysis is relevant for the use of nearsurface winds to compute fluxes of momentum, humidity, or heat or to drive ocean wave or circulation models.