A Caltech Library Service

A Broadband View of the Sea Surface Height Wavenumber Spectrum

Villas Bôas, Ana B. and Lenain, Luc and Cornuelle, Bruce D. and Gille, Sarah T. and Mazloff, Matthew R. (2022) A Broadband View of the Sea Surface Height Wavenumber Spectrum. Geophysical Research Letters, 49 (4). Art. No. e2021GL096699. ISSN 0094-8276. doi:10.1029/2021gl096699.

[img] PDF - Published Version
Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.

[img] PDF (Supporting Information S1) - Supplemental Material
Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


Airborne lidar altimetry can measure the sea surface height (SSH) over scales ranging from hundreds of kilometers to a few meters. Here, we analyze the spectrum of SSH observations collected during an airborne lidar campaign conducted off the California coast. We show that the variance in the surface wave band can be over 20 times larger than the variance at submesoscales and that the observed SSH variability is sensitive to the directionality of surface waves. Our results support the hypothesis that there is a spectral gap between meso-to-submesoscale motions and small-scale surface waves and also indicate that aliasing of surface waves into lower wavenumbers may complicate the interpretation of SSH spectra. These results highlight the importance of better understanding the contributions of different physics to the SSH variability and considering the SSH spectrum as a continuum in the context of future satellite altimetry missions.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription ItemSource code code
Villas Bôas, Ana B.0000-0001-6767-6556
Lenain, Luc0000-0001-9808-1563
Cornuelle, Bruce D.0000-0003-2110-3319
Gille, Sarah T.0000-0001-9144-4368
Mazloff, Matthew R.0000-0002-1650-5850
Additional Information:© 2022 The Authors. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes. Issue Online: 16 February 2022. Version of Record online: 16 February 2022. Accepted manuscript online: 03 February 2022. Manuscript accepted: 31 January 2022. Manuscript revised: 25 January 2022. Manuscript received: 22 October 2021. A. B. Villas Bôas, S. T. Gille, B. D. Cornuelle, and M. R. Mazloff were funded by NASA award 80NSSC20K1136 through the SWOT program. A. B. Villas Bôas had additional funding from NASA award 80NSSC19K1004 through the S-MODE program. L. Lenain was funded through NASA JPL contract 1618801. The authors thank Nick Statom for collecting and preprocessing the data. Data Availability Statement. The data used for this study are available through the UC San Diego Library Digital Collections at and it has been published as Villas Bôas et al. (2022). The source code used to produce the results from this paper is published as Villas Bôas (2022) and can be accessed in the following GitHub repository as well as at
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Subject Keywords:altimetry; sea surface height; meso and submesoscale; SWOT; surface waves; airborne lidar
Issue or Number:4
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20220404-121450000
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Villas Bôas, A. B., Lenain, L., Cornuelle, B. D., Gille, S. T., & Mazloff, M. R. (2022). A broadband view of the sea surface height wavenumber spectrum. Geophysical Research Letters, 49, e2021GL096699.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:114141
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:04 Apr 2022 22:51
Last Modified:04 Apr 2022 22:51

Repository Staff Only: item control page