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In this letter, we explore a method to obtain accurate ocean heights using measurements of the global positioning system (GPS) carrier phase after reflection on the sea surface. A carrier tracking algorithm is employed in measuring travel path differences between GPS direct and reflected signals collected from antennas suspended over a marine estuary, when roughness guarantees partially coherent reflections at the GPS L1 frequency. This technique proves to be sensitive to surface roughness and able to follow tide variations with a precision better than 5 cm (1-sigma) for sea states with significant wave heights below 10 cm. It is expected that this technique could be further extended to rougher sea states using GPS frequency combinations with longer synthetic wavelengths.
Date of Publication: Jan. 2006