Brightness Temperature Sensitivity to Whitecap Fraction at Millimeter Wavelengths
Journal Article - Open Access
NAVAL RESEARCH LAB WASHINGTON DC WASHINGTON United States
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Accurate representation of the ocean-atmosphere coupling in weather, wave and climate models requires reliable estimates of air-sea surface fluxes of momentum, heat and mass. Whitecap fraction W usually quantifies the enhancement of the surface fluxes due to wave breaking. Satellite-based passive remote sensing of W from ocean surface brightness temperatures TBs observes open ocean surface fluxes at low spatial resolution. Radiometric surface observations at higher resolution are necessary to monitor the complex environment in the coastal zone and in polar regions. We assess the feasibility of using the millimeter-wave frequencies 89 to 150 GHz to observe whitecaps. We evaluate the derivative of the T-B with respect to W as a measure for the observation of W. We describe the models and data used to evaluate the T-B sensitivity to W for different instrumental and environmental conditions. Atmospheric absorption limits the ability to observe the surface at millimeter-wave frequencies. We find that the T-B sensitivity to W at 89 GHz may be sufficient to support limited W retrieval from observations at altitudes below 1 km and that the T-B sensitivity at 113 and 150 GHz is not sufficient. Clear skies, and low to moderate atmospheric humidity favor whitecap observations.
- Physical and Dynamic Oceanography