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A radar altimeter's normalized backscatter, sigma0, is used in many oceanographic applications to infer values of wind speed, wind stress, rain rate, and the presence of biogenic slicks. The waveform retracker used to estimate the key geophysical variables for the altimeters on the Jason-1 and Jason-2 satellites shows increased small-scale variability since the problem is ill-conditioned. A simple empirical adjustment to sigma0 improves the separability between various parameters and also improves the along-track profiles of sigma0. This leads to the following: 1) more realistic wind fields; 2) better discrimination of rain events; and 3) improved comparison between the Jason-1 and Jason-2 altimeters during their tandem mission.