ISSN 2070-7401 (Print), ISSN 2411-0280 (Online)
Sovremennye problemy distantsionnogo zondirovaniya Zemli iz kosmosa


Sovremennye problemy distantsionnogo zondirovaniya Zemli iz kosmosa, 2021, Vol. 18, No. 2, pp. 18-35

International experience in calibration of satellite altimetry data on the stationary and temporary calibration sites

A. Lebedev 1, 2, 3 , V. Gusev 1, 4 
1 Geophysical Center RAS, Moscow, Russia
2 National Research University of Electronic Technology, Zelenograd, Moscow, Russia
3 Maykop State Technological University, Maykop, Russia
4 AO Central Research Institute for Machine Building, Korolev, Moscow Region, Russia
Accepted: 04.03.2021
DOI: 10.21046/2070-7401-2021-18-2-18-35
At present, satellite altimetry data are the main source of interannual variability in the sea level of the World Ocean and inland seas. The accuracy of present altimetric measurements of the sea surface height makes it possible to estimate the rate of rise in the level of the World Ocean to a few millimeters per year. However, high-precision measurements of sea surface heights from satellite are largely dependent on the calibration of altimetry measurements at specialized calibration sites, since the measurement result depends on many factors related to the equipment, the conditions of propagation of electromagnetic waves in the troposphere and ionosphere, the sea state bias, and etc. The concept of altimeter data calibration includes in-situ comparison of sea level measurements at the calibration site with the sea surface height obtained as a result of processing altimeter measurements above or near the calibration site. The article provides an overview of the international experience in the calibration of satellite altimetry data, which has gone from a simple comparison of satellite altimetry measurements with the data of level gauges to the creation of specialized stationary and temporary calibration sites. This experience is useful for the development of requirements for the prospective calibration range for the Russian space geodetic system.
Keywords: satellite altimetry, calibration site, sea surface height
Full text


  1. Ablain M., Zawadzki L., Error Characterization Report: Altimetry Measurements Errors at Climate Scales, CLS-DOS-NT-13-100, ESA, 2014, 25 p.
  2. Ablain M., Legeais J. F., Prandi P., Marcos M., Fenoglio-Marc L., Dieng H. B., Benveniste J., Cazenave A., Satellite altimetry-based sea level at global and regional scales, Surveys in Geophysics, 2017, Vol. 38, No. 1, pp. 7–31, DOI: 10.1007/s10712-016-9389-8.
  3. Andersen O. B., Cheng Y., Long term changes of altimeter range and geophysical corrections at altimetry calibration sites, Advances in Space Research, 2013, Vol. 51, No. 8. pp. 1468–1477, DOI: 10.1016/j.asr.2012.11.027.
  4. Babu K. N., Shukla A. K., Suchandra A. B., Arun Kumar S. V. V., Bonnefond P., Testut L., Mehra P., Laurain O., Absolute calibration of SARAL/AltiKa in Kavaratti during its initial calibration-validation phase, Marine Geodesy, 2015, Vol. 38(S1), pp. 156–170, DOI: 10.1080/01490419.2015.1045639.
  5. Bonnefond P., Exertier P., Laurain O., Menard Y., Orsoni A., Jan G., Jeansou E. (2003a), Absolute calibration of Jason-1 and TOPEX/Poseidon altimeters in Corsica, Marine Geodesy, 2003, Vol. 26, No. 3–4, pp. 261–284, DOI: 10.1080/714044521.
  6. Bonnefond P., Exertier P., Laurain O., Ménard Y., Orsoni A., Jeansou E., Haines B. J., Kubitschek D. G., Born G. (2003b), Leveling the Sea Surface Using a GPS-Catamaran, Marine Geodesy, 2003, Vol. 26, No. 3–4, pp. 319–334, DOI: 10.1080/714044524.
  7. Bonnefond P., Haines B. J., Watson C., In situ absolute calibration and validation: a link from coastal to open-ocean altimetry, In: Coastal altimetry, Vignudelli S., Kostianoy A. G., Cipollini P., Benveniste J. (eds.), Berlin; Heidelberg: Springer, 2011, pp. 259–296, DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-12796-0_11.
  8. Bonnefond P., Exertier P., Laurain O., Guinle T., Féménias P., Corsica: A 20-Yr multi-mission absolute altimeter calibration site, Advances in Space Research, 2019, DOI: 10.1016/j.asr.2019.09.049 (In press).
  9. Born G. H., Parke M. E., Axelrad P., Gold K. L., Johnson J., Key K. W., Kubitschek D. G., Christensen E. J., Calibration of the TOPEX altimeter using a GPS buoy, J. Geophysical Research, 1994, Vol. 99, No. C12, pp. 24517–24526, DOI: 10.1029/94JC00920.
  10. Chen C., Zhu J., Zhai W., Yan L., Zhao Y., Huang X., Yang W., Absolute calibration of HY-2A and Jason-2 altimeters for sea surface height using GPS buoy in Qinglan, China, J. Oceanology and Limnology, 2019, Vol. 37, No. 5, pp. 1533–1541, DOI: 10.1007/s13131-020-1599-8.
  11. Cheng K. C., Kuo C. Y., Tseng H. Z., Yi Y., Shum C. K., Lake surface height calibration of Jason-1 and Jason-2 over the Great Lakes, Marine Geodesy, 2010, Vol. 33(S1), pp. 186–203, DOI: 10.1080/01490419.2010.487802.
  12. Christensen E. J., Haines B. J., Keihm S. J., Morris C. S., Norman R. A., Purcell G. H., Williams B. G., Wilson B. D., Born G. H., Parke M. E., Gill S. K., Shum C. K., Tapley B. D., Kolenkiewicz R., Nerem R. S., Calibration of TOPEX/Poseidon at platform Harvest, J. Geophysical Research, 1994, Vol. 99, No. C12, pp. 24465–24485, DOI: 10.1029/94JC01641.
  13. Crétaux J. F., Calmant S., Romanovski V., Shabunin A., Lyard F., Bergé-Nguyen M., Cazenave A., Hernandez F., Perosanz F., An absolute calibration site for radar altimeters in the continental domain: Lake Issykkul in Central Asia, J. Geodesy, 2009, Vol. 83, No. 8, pp. 723–735, DOI: 10.1007/s00190-008-0289-7.
  14. Crétaux J. F., Calmant S., Romanovski V., Perosanz F., Tashbaeva S., Bonnefond P., Moreira D., Shum C. K., Nino F., Bergé-Nguyen M., Fleury S., Gegout P., Abarca Del Rio R., Maisongrande P., Absolute calibration of Jason radar altimeters from GPS kinematic campaigns over Lake Issykkul, Marine Geodesy, 2011, Vol. 34, No. 3–4, pp. 291–318, DOI: 10.1080/01490419.2011.585110.
  15. Crétaux J. F., Bergé-Nguyen M., Calmant S., Romanovski V., Meyssignaca B., Perosanz F., Tashbaevac S., Arsena A., Fund F., Martignago N., Bonnefond P., Laurain O., Morrow R., Maisongrande P., Calibration of Envisat radar altimeter over Lake Issykkul, Advances in Space Research, 2013, Vol. 51, No. 8. pp. 1523–1541, DOI: 10.1016/j.asr.2012.06.039.
  16. Crétaux J. F., Bergé-Nguyen M., Calmant S., Jamangulova N., Satylkanov R., Lyard F., Perosanz F., Verron J., Montazem A. S., Le Guilcher G., Leroux D., Barrie J., Maisongrande. P., Bonnefond P., Absolute calibration or validation of the altimeters on the Sentinel-3A and the Jason-3 over Lake Issykkul (Kyrgyzstan), Remote Sensing, 2018, Vol. 10, No. 11, Art. No. 1679, 17 p., DOI: 10.3390/rs10111679.
  17. Dong X., Huang C., Woodworth P., Moore P., Bingley R., Absolute calibration of the ERS-2 altimeter using UK tide gauges, In: Satellite Altimetry for Geodesy, Geophysics and Oceanography, Hwang C., Shum C. K., Li J. (eds.), IAG Symposia, Vol. 126, Berlin; Heidelberg: Springer, 2003, pp. 91–97, DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-18861-9_11.
  18. Frappart F., Roussel N., Biancale R., Martinez Benjamin J. J., Perosanz F., Garate Pasquin J., Martin Davila J., Perez Gomez B., Gracia Gomez C., Lopez Bravo R., Tapia Gomez A., Berenguer Valles Casanova I., Gili Ripoll J., Preliminary results of the 2013 Ibiza calibration campaign of Jason 2 and SARAL altimeters, 2014 IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symp., 2014, pp. 4473–4476, DOI: 10.1109/IGARSS.2014.6947485.
  19. Frappart F., Roussel N., Biancale R., Martinez Benjamin J. J., Mercier F., Perosanz F., Garate Pasquin J., Martin Davila J., Perez Gomez B., Gracia Gomez C., Lopez Bravo R., Tapia Gomez A., Gili Ripoll J., Hernandez Pajares M., Salazar Lino M., Bonnefond P., Valles Casanova I., The 2013 Ibiza calibration campaign of Jason-2 and SARAL altimeters, Marine Geodesy, 2015, Vol. 38(S1), pp. 219–232, DOI: 10.1080/01490419.2015.1008711.
  20. Gill S. K., Edwing R. F., Jones D. F., Mero T. N., Moss M. K., Samant M., Shih H. H., Stoney W. M., NOAA/National ocean service platform Harvest instrumentation, Marine Geodesy, 1995, Vol. 18, No. 1–2, pp. 49–67, DOI: 10.1080/15210609509379742.
  21. Haines B. J., Dong D., Born G. H., Gill S. K., The Harvest experiment: monitoring Jason-1 and TOPEX/Poseidon from a California offshore platform, Marine Geodesy, 2003, Vol. 26, No. 3–4, pp. 239–259, DOI: 10.1080/714044520.
  22. Haines B. J., Desai S. D., Born G. H., The Harvest experiment: calibration of the climate data record from TOPEX/Poseidon, Jason-1 and the ocean surface topography mission, Marine Geodesy, 2010, Vol. 33(S1), pp. 91–113, DOI: 10.1080/01490419.2010.491028.
  23. Hausleitner W., Moser F., Desjonqueres J. D., Boy F., Picot N., Weingrill J., Mertikas S., Daskalakis A., A new method of precise Jason-2 altimeter calibration using a microwave transponder, Marine Geodesy, 2012, Vol. 35(S1), pp. 337–362, DOI: 10.1080/01490419.2012.718239.
  24. Liebsch G., Novotny K., Dietrich R., Shum C. K., Comparison of multimission altimetric sea-surface heights with tide gauge observations in the Southern Baltic Sea, Marine Geodesy, 2002, Vol. 25, No. 3, pp. 213–234, DOI: 10.1080/01490410290051545.
  25. Martínez-Benjamín J. J., Martínez García M., Ortiz Castellón M. Á., Rodríguez Velasco G., Martín Dávila J., Garate Pasquin J., Bonnefond P., Pérez Gómez B., García Silva C., Calibration altimeter sites at cape of Begur and Ibiza Island, Física de la Tierra, 2005, Vol. 17, pp. 33–45.
  26. Martinez-Benjamin J. J., Martinez-Garcia M., Martin-Davilab J., Garateb J., Talaya J., Ortiz M. A., Baron A., Bonnefond P., Jason-1 and TOPEX/Poseidon altimeter calibration campaigns in the western Mediterranean, Revue Française de Photogrammétrie et de Télédétection, 2006, No. 181, pp. 52–57.
  27. Ménard Y., Jeansou E., Vincent P., Calibration of the TOPEX/Poseidon altimeters at Lampedusa: Additional results at Harvest, J. Geophysical Research: Oceans, 1994, Vol. 99, No. C12, pp. 24487–24504, DOI: 10.1029/94JC01300.
  28. Mertikas S. P., Daskalakis A., Tziavos I. N., Andersen O. B., Vergos G. S., Tripolitsiotis A., Zervakis V., Frantzis X., Partsinevelos P., Altimetry, bathymetry and geoid variations at the Gavdos permanent Cal/Val facility, Advances in Space Research, 2013, Vol. 51, No. 8, pp. 1418–1437, DOI: 10.1016/j.asr.2012.10.021.
  29. Mertikas S. P., Zhou X., Qiao F., Daskalakis A., Lin M., Peng H., Tziavos I., Vergos G., Tripolitsiotis A., Frantzis X., First preliminary results for the absolute calibration of the Chinese HY-2 altimetric mission using the CRS1 calibration facilities in West Crete, Greece, Advances in Space Research, 2016, Vol. 57, No. 1, pp. 78–95, available at:
  30. Mertikas S. P., Donlon C., Féménias P., Mavrocordatos C., Galanakis D., Tripolitsiotis A., Frantzis X., Tziavos I. N., Vergos G., Guinle T., Fifteen years of Cal/Val service to reference altimetry missions: Calibration of satellite altimetry at the Permanent Facilities in Gavdos and Crete, Greece, Remote Sensing, 2018, Vol. 10, No. 10, Art. No. 1557, 40 p., DOI: 10.3390/rs10101557.
  31. Mertikas S., Tripolitsiotis A., Donlon C., Mavrocordatos C., Féménias P., Borde F., Frantzis X., Kokolakis C., Guinle T., Vergos G., Tziavos I. N., Cullen R., The ESA Permanent Facility for Altimetry Calibration: Monitoring Performance of Radar Altimeters for Sentinel-3A, Sentinel-3B and Jason-3 Using Transponder and Sea-Surface Calibrations with FRM Standards, Remote Sensing, 2020, Vol. 12, No. 16, Art. No. 2642, 39 p., DOI: 10.3390/rs12162642.
  32. Morris C. S., Gill S. K., Evaluation of the TOPEX/Poseidon altimeter system over the Great Lakes, J. Geophysical Research: Oceans, 1994, Vol. 99, No. C12, pp. 24527–24539, DOI: 10.1029/94JC01642.
  33. Morris C. S., DiNardo S. J., Christensen E. J., Overview of the TOPEX/Poseidon Platform Harvest verification experiment, Marine Geodesy, 1995, Vol. 18, No. 1–2, pp. 25–37, DOI: 10.1080/15210609509379740.
  34. Nerem R. S., Chambers D. P., Choe C., Mitchum G. T., Estimating mean sea level change from the TOPEX and Jason altimeter missions, Marine Geodesy, 2010, Vol. 33(S1), pp. 435–446, DOI: 10.1080/01490419.2010.491031.
  35. Nerem R. S., Beckley B. D., Fasullo J. T., Hamlington B. D., Masters D., Mitchum G. T., Climate-change–driven accelerated sea-level rise detected in the altimeter era, Proc. National Academy of Sciences, 2018, Vol. 115, No. 9, pp. 2022–2025, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1717312115.
  36. Pfeffer J., Allemand P., The key role of vertical land motions in coastal sea level variations: A global synthesis of multisatellite altimetry, tide gauge data and GPS measurements, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 2016, Vol. 439, pp. 39–47, DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2016.01.027.
  37. Shum C., Yi Y., Cheng K., Kuo C., Braun A., Calmant S., Chambers D., Calibration of Jason-1 Altimeter over Lake Erie, Marine Geodesy, 2003, Vol. 26, No. 3–4, pp. 335–354, DOI: 10.1080/714044525.
  38. Watson C., Coleman R., White N., Church J., Govind R., Absolute calibration of TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1 using GPS buoys in Bass Strait, Australia, Marine Geodesy, 2003, Vol. 26, No. 3–4, pp. 285–304, DOI: 10.1080/714044522.
  39. Watson C., White N., Coleman R., Church J., Morgan P., Govind R., TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1: absolute calibration in Bass Strait, Australia, Marine Geodesy, 2004, Vol. 27, No. 1–2, pp. 107–131, DOI: 10.1080/01490410490465373.
  40. Watson C., White N., Church J., Burgette R., Tregoning P., Coleman R., Absolute calibration in Bass Strait, Australia: TOPEX, Jason-1 and OSTM/Jason-2, Marine Geodesy, 2011, Vol. 34, No. 3–4, pp. 242–260, DOI: 10.1080/01490419.2011.584834.
  41. White N. J., Coleman R., Church J. A., Morgan P. J., Walker S. J., A southern hemisphere verification for the TOPEX/Poseidon satellite altimeter mission, J. Geophysical Research, 1994, Vol. 99, No. C12, pp. 24505–24516, DOI: 10.1029/94JC01382.
  42. Yang L., Zhou X., Mertikas S. P., Zhu L., Yang L., Lei N., First calibration results of Jason-2 and SARAL/AltiKa satellite altimeters from the Qianli Yan permanent Cal/Val facilities, China, Advances in Space Research, 2017, Vol. 59, No. 12, pp. 2831–2842, DOI: 10.1016/j.asr.2017.02.044.
  43. Zhai W., Zhu J., Fan X., Yan L., Chen C., Tian Z. (2020a), Preliminary calibration results for Jason-3 and Sentinel-3 altimeters in the Wanshan Islands, J. Oceanology and Limnology, 2020, 15 p., DOI: 10.1007/s00343-020-9251-1.
  44. Zhai W., Zhu J., Ma C., Fan X., Yan L., Wang H., Chen C. (2020b), Measurement of the sea surface using a GPS towing-body in Wanshan area, Acta Oceanologica Sinica, 2020, Vol. 39, No. 5, pp. 123–132, DOI: 10.1007/s13131-020-1599-8.
  45. Zhou X., Yang L., Lin M., Lei N., Tang Q., Mu B., Absolute calibration of HY-2, Jason-2 and SARAL/AltiKa from China in situ calibration site: Qian Li Yan, 2015 IEEE Intern. Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symp. (IGARSS-2015), 2015, pp. 3659–3662, DOI: 10.1109/IGARSS.2015.7326616.