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Investigation on Geometry Computation of Spaceborne GNSS-R Altimetry over Topography: Modeling and Validation

Song, Minfeng; He, Xiufeng; Asgarimehr, Milad; Li, Weiqiang; Xiao, Ruya; Jia, Dongzhen; Wang, Xiaolei; Wickert, Jens

The spaceborne Global Navigation Satellite Systems Reflectometry (GNSS-R) offers versatile Earth surface observation. While the accuracy of the computed geometry, required for the implementation of the technique, degrades when Earth’s surface topography is complicated, previous studies ignored the effects of the local terrain surrounding the ideal specular point at a suppositional Earth reference surface. The surface slope and its aspect have been confirmed that it can lead to geolocation-related errors in the traditional radar altimetry, which will be even more intensified in tilt observations. In this study, the effect of large-scale slope on the spaceborne GNSS-R technique is investigated. We propose a new geometry computation strategy based on the property of ellipsoid to carry out forward and inverse calculations of path geometries. Moreover, it can be extended to calculate unusual reflected paths over versatile Earth’s topography by taking the surface slope and aspects into account. A simulation considering the slope effects demonstrates potential errors as large as meters to tens kilometers in geolocation and height estimations in the grazing observation condition over slopes. For validation, a single track over the Greenland surface received by the TechDemoSat 1 (TDS-1) satellite with a slope range from 0% to 1% was processed and analyzed. The results show that using the TanDEM-X 90 m Digital Elevation Model (DEM) as a reference, a slope of 0.6% at an elevation angle of 54 degrees can result in a geolocation inaccuracy of 10 km and a height error of 50 m. The proposed method in this study greatly reduces the standard deviation of geolocations of specular points from 4758 m to 367 m, and height retrievals from 28 m to 5.8 m. Applications associated with topography slopes, e.g., cryosphere could benefit from this method.
Published in: Remote Sensing, 10.3390/rs14092105, MDPI