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Fifteen years of ERS satellite orbits and altimetry: An overview

Remko Scharroo(1) , John Lillibridge(2) , and Eelco Doornbos(3)

(1) Altimetrics LLC, 330a Parsonage Road, Cornish, NH 03745, United States
(2) NOAA/NESDIS, 1335 East-west Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910, United States
(3) Delft University of Technology, Kluyverweg 1, 2629 HS Delft, Netherlands


In fifteen years much has changed in the field of satellite altimetry. Only three altimeter satellites preceded ERS-1, two of which were only active for a few months. ERS-1 was the first to provide wind and wave information operationally to meteorological institutes. Much was expected from the sea height measurements it would provide, but few expected it would do so well that it marked the beginning of a new era of high-precision satellite altimetry, ahead of TOPEX/Poseidon, which was exclusively built for this purpose.

Since then orbit errors have been reduced by nearly two orders of magnitude, tide models have improved by a factor 10 as well, and high-resolution gravimetry was made possible by ERS-1's geodetic mission.

By the time ERS-2 was launched it became clear that the ERS satellites could also contribute to the assessment of global sea level rise, both by gauging the oceans as well as ice surfaces. And in the last decade many unforeseen applications have been added, including the measuring of sea ice thickness, lake level monitoring, and hurricane forecasting.

This presentation highlights some of the key developments in satellite altimetry and orbit determination that demonstrate the important contributions of ERS-1 and ERS-2 to the field.


Workshop presentation


                 Last modified: 07.10.03