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Cudlip, W, Phillips HA, Kearsley AHW.  1995.  The Use of Reference Surfaces to Determine Repeat-Orbit Variability in Satellite Altimetry. Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing. 61:881-890. AbstractWebsite

Two alternative techniques for estimating the variability of the radial orbit error for collinear tracks are investigated using Geosat altimeter data. The first uses sinusoidal fitting to ocean height differences around an orbit, and the second uses relatively flat areas of land (in the Simpson Desert, Australia, and the Antarctic Plateau). Using a non-ocean surface requires knowledge of the local surface slope, and we obtain this through the fitting of a plane to the set of repeat height measurements. The difference in the relative-orbit-error estimates from the two techniques is 12 cm root-mean-square (RMS), from which we conclude that relative orbit error can be reduced to less than 9 cm using ocean fitting, and to between 9 and 12 cm using land fitting. The Antarctic plateau could not be used as a reference as the orbit error appeared correlated with the cross-track displacement of repeat tracks, preventing the determination of the local surface slope. The land analysis was also Limited by lack of waveform data and Geosat off-pointing; current altimeter missions (e.g., ERS-1 and Topex/Poseidon) should be able to achieve higher accuracies.