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Cryosat measures European Storm Surge

ESA's Cryosat Spacecraft has measured the storm surge from the recent North Sea storms as it passed through the Kattegat separating Denmark and Sweden. 

Read the full article on ESA's website.

The measurements were made by Cryosat’s Radar Altimeter, SIRAL (SAR Interferometric Radar Altimeter). Although designed primarily to determine ice thickness, SIRAL is also extremely useful to measure sea surface heights. Until recently measurements from satellite altimeters were only trusted over the open ocean, because of land interference close to the coast, however recent work on coastal altimetry allows measurements to be recovered near to land. Building on heritage from other ESA funded projects, such as COASTALT and SAMOSA, NOC have designed a coastal altimetry processor, ALES, for use in eSurge.

Cryosat-2 passed over the Kattegat during the night of the 6th December, measuring the water height profile (see right: click to expand). This observed sea height agrees well with numerical models of what was expected, giving additional validation of these models, and with the levels measured by coastal tide gauges.

The figure below left shows DMI's numerical model prediction of the sea level at the time of Cryosat's overpass. It can be seen that the expected profile is very similar to that seen by Cryosat. The figure below right shows some actual measurements (in red) against a variety of models (including the DMI one in black), showing that the model overal predicted the surge well, though with some underestimation of the peak.

(Figures courtesy of DMI.)

The data for this event can be accessed via the eSurge database here.