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Journal Articles (Review Article) Surveys in Geophysics Year : 2023

Satellite remote sensing of surface winds, waves, and currents: where are we now?


This review paper reports on the state-of-the-art concerning observations of surface winds, waves and currents from space and their use for scientific research and subsequent applications. The development of observations of sea state parameters from space dates back to the 1970s, with a significant increase in the number and diversity of space missions since the 1990s. Sensors used to monitor the sea-state parameters from space are mainly based on microwave techniques. They are either specifically designed to monitor surface parameters or are used for their abilities to provide opportunistic measurements complementary to their primary purpose. The principles on which is based the estimation of the sea surface parameters are first described, including the performance and limitations of each method. Numerous examples and references on the use of these observations for scientific and operational applications are then given. The richness and diversity of these applications are linked to the importance of knowledge of the sea state in many fields. Firstly, surface wind, waves and currents are significant factors influencing exchanges at the air/sea interface, impacting oceanic and atmospheric boundary layers, contributing to sea level rise at the coasts, and interacting with the sea-ice formation or destruction in the polar zones. Secondly, ocean surface currents combined with wind-and wave-induced drift contribute to the transport of heat, salt and pollutants. Waves and surface currents also impact sediment transport and erosion in coastal areas. For operational applications, observations of surface parameters are necessary on the one hand to constrain the numerical solutions of predictive models (numerical wave, oceanic or atmospheric models), and on the other hand to validate their results. In turn, these predictive models are used to guarantee safe, efficient and successful offshore operations, including the commercial shipping and energy sector, as well as tourism and coastal activities. Long time series of global sea-state observations are also becoming increasingly important to analyze the impact of climate change on our environment. All these aspects are recalled in the article, relating to both historical and contemporary activities in these fields. Article Highlights • The different techniques and satellite missions to monitor winds, waves and currents at the ocean surface from space are described • Sea-state observations from space are widely used in operational meteorology, as well as for research on ocean, atmosphere and climate processes • Sea-state observations from space are also actively used by the offshore industry, as well as in coastal zone management
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Dates and versions

hal-03969955 , version 1 (02-02-2023)
hal-03969955 , version 2 (19-03-2023)





Danièle Hauser, Saleh Abdalla, Fabrice Ardhuin, Jean-Raymond Bidlot, Mark Bourassa, et al.. Satellite remote sensing of surface winds, waves, and currents: where are we now?. Surveys in Geophysics, 2023, “Oceanography, Hydrology and Glaciology from Space », Guest Editors J. Benveniste, A. Cazenave, ⟨10.1007/s10712-023-09771-2⟩. ⟨hal-03969955v2⟩
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