This paper was written by I. A. Houghton, S. G. Penny, C. Hegermiller, M. Cesaretti, C. Teicheira, and P. B. Smit.
An ensemble-based method for wave data assimilation is implemented using significant wave height observations from the globally distributed network of Sofar Spotter buoys and satellite altimeters. The Local Ensemble Transform Kalman Filter (LETKF) method generates skillful analysis fields resulting in reduced forecast errors out to 2.5 days when used as initial conditions in a cycled wave data assimilation system. The LETKF method provides more physically realistic model state updates that better reflect the underlying sea state dynamics and uncertainty compared to methods such as optimal interpolation. Skill assessment far from any included observations and inspection of specific storm events highlight the advantages of LETKF over an optimal interpolation method for data assimilation. This advancement has immediate value in improving predictions of the sea state and, more broadly, enabling future coupled data assimilation and utilization of global surface observations across domains (atmosphere-wave-ocean).