Consolidating ICESat-2 Ocean Wave Characteristics with CryoSat-2 during the CRYO2ICE Campaign

Bjarke Nilsson*, Ole Baltazar Andersen, Heidi Ranndal, Mikkel Lydholm Rasmussen

*Corresponding author for this work

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Using the Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite 2 (ICESat-2) global high-resolution elevation measurements, it is possible to distinguish individual surface ocean waves. With the vast majority of ocean surveying missions using radar satellites, ICESat-2 observations are an important addition to ocean surveys. ICESat-2 can also provide additional observations not possible with radar. In this paper, we consolidate the ICESat-2 ocean observations by comparing the significant wave height (SWH) with coincident CryoSat-2 radar observations during the CRYO2ICE campaign from August 2020 to August 2021. We use 136 orbit segments, constrained to the Pacific and Atlantic oceans as well as the Bering Sea, to compare observations to show the level of agreement between these systems. Three models based on ICESat-2 are used in the comparison: the standard ocean data output (ATL12), a method of modeling the individual surface waves using the geolocated photons and, functioning as a baseline, an approach using the standard deviation of the ocean surface. We find the following correlations between the SWHs from the models and the SWHs from CryoSat-2: 0.97 for ATL12, 0.95 for the observed waves model, and 0.97 for the standard deviation model. In the same comparison, we find mean differences relative to the observed SWHs for each model, as well as errors, which increase as the SWH increases. The SWH observed from ICESat-2 is found to agree with observations from CryoSat-2, with limitations due to changes in the sea state between the satellite observations. Observing the individual surface waves from ICESat-2 can therefore provide additional observed properties of the sea state that can be used alongside other global observations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1300
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number6
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • CryoSat-2
  • ICESat-2
  • Ocean altimetry
  • Significant wave height (SWH)


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