Coastal Sea-Level Measurements Based on GNSS-R Phase Altimetry: A Case Study at the Onsala Space Observatory, Sweden
Journal article, 2017

The characterization of global mean sea level is important to predict floods and to quantify water resources for human use and irrigation, especially in coastal regions. Recently, the application of global navigation satellite system reflectometry (GNSS-R) for water level monitoring has been successfully demonstrated. This paper focuses on the retrieval of sea surface height within a field experiment that was conducted at the Onsala Space Observatory (OSO) using the phase-based altimetry method. A continuous phase tracking algorithm, which relies on the GNSS amplitude and phase observations is proposed and works even under rough sea conditions at OSO's coast. Factors impacting the phase-based altimetry model, i.e., atmospheric propagation effects of the GNSS signals and influence of the GNSS-R observation instrument, are discussed. The relationship between the yield of coherent GNSS-R compared to the overall recorded events and the wind speed is investigated in detail. Ground-based sea-level measurements from June 10 to July 3, 2015 demonstrate that altimetric information about the reflecting water surface can be obtained with a root mean square error of 4.37 cm with respect to a reference tide gauge (TG) data set. The sea surface changes, derived from our field experiment and the reference TG, are highly correlated with a correlation coefficient of 0.93. The altimetric information can be retrieved even when the sea surface is very rough, corresponding to wind speeds up to 13 m/s. Moreover, the use of inexpensive conventional GNSS antennas shows that the system is useful for future large-scale sea level monitoring applications including numerous low-cost coastal ground stations.


Onsala Space Observatory


sea level


Wei Liu

Jamila Beckheinrich

Maximilian Semmling

Markus Ramatschi

Sibylle Vey

Jens Wickert

Thomas Hobiger

Chalmers, Earth and Space Sciences, Onsala Space Observatory

Rüdiger Haas

Chalmers, Earth and Space Sciences, Onsala Space Observatory

IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing

0196-2892 (ISSN) 15580644 (eISSN)

Vol. 55 10 5625-5636 7959643

Subject Categories

Other Earth and Related Environmental Sciences

Signal Processing

Geosciences, Multidisciplinary


Basic sciences


Onsala Space Observatory



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