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Instrument: RADAR ALTIMETERS
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Description
The radar altimeter is a short pulse, nadir viewing radar designed to
mesure precisely the distance from the satelite to the Earth surface.
The instrument can also measure the shape of the returned pulse and
the backscattering cross section. The latter two measurements permit
inference of significant wave height and wind speed. The significant
wave height can be inferred from the slope of the leading edge of the
returned pulse and the wind speed can be inferred from the rqdar cross
section. Higher waves tend to decrease the slope of the leading edge
of the pulse and also the backscattering, thus leading to the
inference of the presence of higher winds. The major component of
information derived from a nadir altimeter pertains to the geoid and
small-scale anomalies. These anomalies may be caused by sea mounts,
trenches, ocean currents, and fronts.

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Entry taken from:

Rao, P.K., S.J. Holmes, R.K. Anderson, J.S. Winston, P.E. Lehr,
Weather Satellites: Systems, Data, and Environmental
Applications, American Meteorological Society, Boston, 1990.
ISBN 0-933876-66-1

Reference online documentation:
http://earth.esa.int/services/esa_doc/doc_gen.html
http://esapub.esrin.esa.it

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