Peer-Reviewed Research

Proxy Observations of Surface Wind from a Globally Distributed Network of Wave Buoys

Sofar Ocean

This paper was written by Ciara Dorsay, Galen Egan, Isabel Houghton, Christie Hegermiller, and Pieter B. Smit


In the equilibrium range of the wave spectrum’s high-frequency tail, energy levels are proportional to the wind friction velocity. As a consequence of this intrinsic coupling, spectral tail energy levels can be used as proxy observations of surface stress and wind speed when direct observations are unavailable. Proxy observations from drifting wave-buoy networks can therefore augment existing remote sensing capabilities by providing long dwell observations of surface winds. Here we consider the skill of proxy wind estimates obtained from observations recorded by the globally distributed Sofar Spotter network (observations from 2021 to 2022) when compared with collocated observations derived from satellites (yielding over 20 000 collocations) and reanalysis data. We consider physics-motivated parameterizations (based on frequency−4 universal tail assumption), inverse modeling (estimate wind speed from spectral energy balance), and a data-driven approach (artificial neural network) as potential methods. Evaluation of trained/calibrated models on unseen test data reveals comparable performance across methods with generally of order 1 m s−1 root-mean-square difference with satellite observations.

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