Comparison of synthetic aperture radar-derived wind speeds with buoy wind speeds along the mountainous Alaskan coast

C. M. Fisher, George S. Young, N. S. Winstead, J. D. Haqq-Misra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Satellite-borne synthetic aperture radar (SAR) offers the potential for remotely sensing surface wind speed both over the open sea and in close proximity to the coast. The resolution improvement of SAR over scatterometers is of particular advantage near coasts. Thus, there is a need to verify the performance of SAR wind speed retrieval in coastal environments adjacent to very complex terrain and subject to strong synoptic forcing. Mountainous coasts present a challenge because the wind direction values required for SAR wind speed retrieval algorithms cannot be obtained from global model analyses with as much accuracy there as over the open ocean or adjacent to gentle coasts where most previous SAR accuracy studies have been conducted. The performance of SAR wind speed retrieval in this challenging environment is tested using a 7-yr dataset from the mountainous coast of the Gulf of Alaska. SAR-derived wind speeds are compared with direct measurements from three U.S. Navy Oceanographic Meteorological Automatic Device (NOMAD) buoys. Both of the commonly used SAR wind speed retrieval models, CMOD4 and CMOD5, were tested, as was the impact of correcting the buoy-derived wind speed profile for surface-layer stability. Both SAR wind speed retrieval models performed well although there was some wind speed-dependent bias. This may be either a SAR wind speed retrieval issue or a buoy issue because buoys can underestimate winds as wind speed and thus sea state increase. The full set of tests is performed twice, once using wind directions from the U.S. Navy Operational Global Atmospheric Prediction System (NOGAPS) model analyses and once using wind direction observations from the buoys themselves. It is concluded that useful wind speeds can be derived from SAR backscatter and global model wind directions even in proximity to mountainous coastlines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1365-1376
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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