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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Electrical and Computer Engineering

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Stephen Frasier

Subject Categories

Electromagnetics and Photonics | Other Electrical and Computer Engineering


Though scatterometers have been used to sense global ocean surface wind vectors for over 40 years, there remain some significant shortcomings. The largest problems appear in retrieving the wind vector when the ocean is being driven by high wind speeds or when rain is present in the beam-illuminated volume. Geophysical model functions (GMFs) developed using data from high-wind events can improve retrievals at high wind speeds, but only if sufficient ground truth measurements exist in the scatterometer swath. Airborne scatterometers, such as the Imaging Wind and Rain Airborne Profiler (IWRAP) developed by the Microwave Remote Sensing Laboratory (MIRSL) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass), are well-suited for collecting such high-wind data, largely due to their abilities to reposition to areas of interest, sample the ocean surface on a small scale, and use complementary in-situ sensors. The IWRAP system is also able to investigate the effect of precipitation impact (the “splash effect”) on the sea surface normalized radar cross-section (NRCS), since it can discriminate between volume and surface effects of precipitation. This dissertation will improve upon the existing IWRAP GMF and quantify the effect of precipitation on wind vector retrievals. Additionally, IWRAP is used to observe the effects of Earth-incidence angle and polarization on the sea-surface radar backscatter, helping scatterometer GMFs to be applicable to other satellite sensors. IWRAP and collocated Stepped Frequency Microwave Radiometer (SFMR) data were gathered from 4 years of flight experiments. Using this data, the high-wind IWRAP GMF is extended to incidence angles near 22° at C- and Ku-band VV- and HH-polarization from 15 m s−1 to 45 m s−1. There is also a revision made to the higher harmonics of the GMF near 50° incidence, but the mean NRCS appears to be modeled appropriately. There is no splash effect observed in the mean NRCS or first harmonic at wind speeds from 15 m s−1 to 45 m s−1. The second harmonic shows some muted behavior in precipitation. Lastly, a wind speed dependence is observed in the VV/HH NRCS polarization ratio in both incidence angle and azimuth.