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Precise mean sea level measurements using the Global Positioning SystemThis paper describes the results of a sea level measurement test conducted off La Jolla, California, in November of 1991. The purpose of this test was to determine accurate sea level measurements using a Global Positioning System (GPS) equipped buoy. These measurements were intended to be used as the sea level component for calibration of the ERS 1 satellite altimeter. Measurements were collected on November 25 and 28 when the ERS 1 satellite overflew the calibration area. Two different types of buoys were used. A waverider design was used on November 25 and a spar design on November 28. This provided the opportunity to examine how dynamic effects of the measurement platform might affect the sea level accuracy. The two buoys were deployed at locations approximately 1.2 km apart and about 15 km west of a reference GPS receiver located on the rooftop of the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. GPS solutions were computed for 45 minutes on each day and used to produce two sea level time series. An estimate of the mean sea level at both locations was computed by subtracting tide gage data collected at the Scripps Pier from the GPS-determined sea level measurements and then filtering out the high-frequency components due to waves and buoy dynamics. In both cases the GPS estimate differed from Rapp's mean altimetric surface by 0.06 m. Thus, the gradient in the GPS measurements matched the gradient in Rapp's surface. These results suggest that accurate sea level can be determined using GPS on widely differing platforms as long as care is taken to determine the height of the GPS antenna phase center above water level. Application areas include measurement of absolute sea level, of temporal variations in sea level, and of sea level gradients (dominantly the geoid). Specific applications would include ocean altimeter calibration, monitoring of sea level in remote regions, and regional experiments requiring spatial and temporal resolution higher than that available from altimeter data.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
External Source(s)
Kelecy, Thomas M.
(NOAA, Silver Spring, MD United States)
Born, George H.
(Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, CO United States)
Parke, Michael E.
(Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, CO United States)
Rocken, Christian
(Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, CO United States)
Date Acquired
August 16, 2013
Publication Date
April 15, 1994
Publication Information
Publication: Journal of Geophysical Research
Volume: 99
Issue: C4
ISSN: 0148-0227
Subject Category
Accession Number
Funding Number(s)
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