Scientia Marina, Vol 76, No S1 (2012)

Performance of modern tide gauges: towards mm-level accuracy

Belén Martín Míguez
Centro Tecnológico del Mar, Fundación CETMAR , Spain

Laurent Testut
LEGOS , France

Guy Wöppelmann
LIENSs, CNRS/Université de La Rochelle - Fédération de Recherche en Environnement et Développement Durable , France


Considerable efforts are being made worldwide to upgrade tide gauge networks using new technologies. Because of the unique location of the Kerguelen Islands, the measurement of sea level there has received particular attention, with up to four systems equipped with modern sensors functioning simultaneously (two pressure tide gauges, a radar tide gauge, and a GPS-equipped buoy). We analysed and compared the sea level data obtained with these systems from 2003 to 2010, together with a time series of tide pole observations. This is the first time that a multi-comparison study with tide gauges has been undertaken over such a long time span and that the stability of modern radar tide gauges has been examined. The multi-comparison enabled us to evaluate the performance of the tide gauges in several frequency ranges, identify errors and estimate their magnitude. The drift of the pressure sensors (up to 8.0 mm/yr) was found to be one of the most relevant sources of systematic error. Other sources of difference such as clock drift, scale error and different locations of the instruments were also detected. After correcting the time series of sea level for these errors we estimated an upper bound for the radar instrumental error in field condition at ~0.3 cm.


radar; pressure gauges; sea level changes; sea level measurement; tide gauges; Kerguelen Islands; GPS buoy

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