Sea Level Monitoring Using a GNSS-Based Tide Gauge
Poster (konferens), 2009

Global climate change is believed to result in the melting of large masses of ice in Polar Regions, bringing freshwater into the ocean, and changing the sea level. The traditional way to measure the sea level, by tide gauges, results in measurements relative to the Earth’s crust. However, in order to fully understand the sea level changes, absolute measurements (change in sea level in relation to the Earth’s center of gravity) are necessary, in particular in regions affected by post-glacial uplift, e.g., Fennoscandia. Satellite techniques, e.g., GNSS can be used to determine the motion of the Earth’s crust in relation to the center of gravity. By measuring reflected GNSS-signals from the sea surface, information of the sea level change can be obtained. Therefore a GNSS-based tide gauge is proposed. The proposed GNSS-based tide gauge installation consists of two antennas, one zenith looking right hand circular polarized (RHCP) and one nadir looking left hand circular polarized (LHCP), mounted back-to-back on a beam over the ocean. The RHCP antenna receives the GNSS-signals directly, whereas the LHCP antenna receives the signals reflected from the sea surface. Because of the additional path delay of the reflected signal, the LHCP antenna will appear to be a virtual GNSS-antenna located below the sea surface. When the sea level changes, the path delay of the reflected signal changes, thus the LHCP antenna will appear to be in a new position. The vertical position change corresponds to twice the sea level change, and therefore monitors sea level changes. Multiple satellites with different elevation and azimuth angles are observed each epoch and will give rise to reflected signals with different incidence angles from different directions. This means that the estimated sea level change can not be considered to originate from one specific point on the surface, but rather represents the change of an average surface formed by the reflection points. An experimental setup was installed in December 2008 over the ocean at Onsala Space Observatory (OSO) at the west coast of Sweden. Data was collected during three days using two Leica GRX1200+ receivers (one for the direct and one for the reflected signal). The receivers recorded 40 hours of continuous 20Hz data. The signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) as determined by the two receivers was used as a first data quality check. On average the SNR difference between the directly received and the reflected signals was less than 3dB. The data was analyzed using an in-house developed software in MATLAB. Solutions were made using L1 phase delays for relative positioning. Two approaches to estimate the vertical difference between the RHCP and the LHCP antenna were tested: hourly estimates of the vertical difference, and high-rate estimates of the vertical difference. For the hourly estimates 40 hours of continuous 1Hz data (reduced for faster processing using the TEQC software) were used. Each solution was made using 20 minutes of data every full hour, solving for differences in the local vertical components together with receiver clock and phase ambiguities differences for each epoch. The solution for the high-rate vertical component was made in two steps. First, the phase ambiguity differences were determined. This was done using equally distributed short intervals of ~1 second (21 epochs) from ~20 minutes of 20Hz data, solving for difference in phase ambiguities and receiver clocks every epoch together with differences in vertical coordinate for each short interval. The processing was done based on the assumptions that the sea surface does not change significantly during ~1 second and that the satellite geometry changes considerably in ~20 minutes. Second, the differences in phase ambiguities were rounded to the nearest integer and inserted as known values for a reprocessing of the 20Hz data. In this reprocessing the receiver clock parameters were estimated every epoch and the vertical coordinate difference with different time resolutions (e.g. 0.05s, 1s, 30s). The resulting time-series for the sea level change from the hourly solutions were compared to data from two traditional tide gauges operated by the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute at Ringhals and Göteborg, about 18 km south of and 33 km north of OSO, respectively. The GNSS-derived sea level change resembles reasonably well the independently observed sea level change. This indicates that the GNSS-tide gauge gives valuable results for sea level monitoring. Furthermore, the use of the high-rate GNSS-receivers additionally allows a flexible time resolution for sea level monitoring.


sea level monitoring

tide gauge

reflection signals


Johan Löfgren

Chalmers, Institutionen för radio- och rymdvetenskap, Rymdgeodesi och geodynamik

Rüdiger Haas

Chalmers, Institutionen för radio- och rymdvetenskap, Rymdgeodesi och geodynamik

Jan Johansson

Chalmers, Institutionen för radio- och rymdvetenskap, Rymdgeodesi och geodynamik

2nd International Colloquium - Scientific and Fundamental Aspects of the Galileo Programme, 14 - 16 October 2009, Padua, Italy


Övrig annan teknik

Annan geovetenskap och miljövetenskap

Geovetenskap och miljövetenskap


Oceanografi, hydrologi, vattenresurser

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