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Microwave modulation by swell waves and its relation to microbreaking waves were investigated in an ocean experiment. Simultaneous collocated microwave and infrared (IR) measurements of wind waves and swell on the ocean were made. The normalized radar cross section sigma0 and the skin temperature T skin were both modulated by the swell, but with differing phases. In general, sigma0 maxima occurred on the front face, whereas T skin maxima occurred on the rear face of the swell. Infrared imagery has shown that swell-induced microbreaking occurred at or near the swell crest and that the resulting warm wakes occurred on the rear face of the wave. When tilt and range modulations are taken into account, the location of microbreaking also accounts for the maximum of sigma0 occurring on the front face of the swell. Thus, microbreaking waves generated near the crest of low-amplitude swell can produce microwave and IR signatures with the observed phase. The relationship between microwave and IR signals was further emphasized by comparing microwave Doppler spectra with simultaneous IR and visible images of the sea surface from the same location. When small and microscale breaking waves were present, Doppler spectra exhibited characteristics that are similar to those from whitecaps, having peaks with large Doppler offsets and polarization ratios near unity. When no microbreakers were present, Doppler offsets and polarization ratios were much smaller in accordance with a composite surface scattering theory.
Date of Publication: July 2008