Reflectivity and Emissivity of Sea Foam at L-band
Abstract:The ubiquitous use of the Global Positioning System (GPS) for navigation is well known. GPS operates at L-band frequencies of 1-2 GHz. Because these low microwave frequencies penetrate clouds and rain, GPS signals can detect the specular reflection and diffuse scattering from flat and rough surfaces. This makes the GPS signals useful for geophysical measurements in all weather conditions. Aircraft and satellite-borne GPS reflectometers have been shown to successfully sense ocean surface wind. L-band reflectometry measures changes in ocean surface reflectivity due to changes of ocean surface roughness as wind increases. The use of GPS, together with other Global Navigation Satellite Systems, will soon provide hundreds of L-band transmitters in space and thus high temporal resolution for geophysical measurements. With its all weather capability and high temporal resolution, GPS reflectometry can provide wind speed data in hurricane conditions.
Such capabilities enable the new Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) project which aims to improve the skill of hurricane intensity forecasts. However, wave breaking under high winds produces sea foam (whitecaps) and sea spray, which complicate processes acting at the air-sea interface. Whitecaps and sea spray have high emissivity at L-band and will thus reduce the ocean reflectivity needed for wind speed retrieval. A combination of L-band reflectometry and L-band radiometry can thus help to better understand and model the physical mechanisms governing the L-band sensor responses. We use a radiative transfer model formulated in terms of foam layer thickness and void fraction to evaluate both the reflectivity and emissivity of a foam-covered sea surface. We report on the attenuation of L-band radiation in foam layers, and the corresponding foam reflectivity, for layers with varying thicknesses and void fractions. The reflected GPS signal sensitivity to wind speed variations in the presence of foam is assessed.