5.A.3 Estimates of Oxygen Changes
Estimates of changes in O2 in the surface 100 m of the ocean between 1955 and 1998 were made for each pentad using a total of 530,000 O2 profiles (Garcia et al., 2005). The measurement method was not reported for all the cruises. Only the Winkler titration was reported, with only manual titrations prior to 1990. The Carpenter method to improve accuracy was reported for some cruises after 1970. An automated titration gives a significant improvement for measurement reproducibility but is not the essential solution for accuracy. Problems of O2 leakage were reported from the older samples using Nansen bottles (generally before 1970). The Niskin bottles more widely used after 1970 are thought to be more reliable. There are no agreed standards for O2 measurements because of reagent impurity and the difficulty in preparing a stable solution, which limits accuracy of these measurements to typically less than 10 µmol kg–1 for modern methods.
5.A.4 Estimation of Sea Level Change
5.A.4.1 Satellite Altimetry: Measurement Principle and Associated Errors
The concept of satellite altimetry measurement is rather straightforward. The onboard radar altimeter transmits a short pulse of microwave radiation with known power towards the nadir. Part of the incident radiation reflects back to the altimeter. Measurement of the round-trip travel time provides the height of the satellite above the instantaneous sea surface. The quantity of interest in oceanography is the height of the instantaneous sea surface above a fixed reference surface, which is computed as the difference between the altitude of the satellite above the reference ellipsoid and the altimeter range. The satellite position is computed through precise orbit determination, combining accurate modelling of the satellite motion and tracking measurements between the satellite and observing stations on Earth or other observing satellites. A number of corrections must be applied to obtain the correct sea surface height. These include instrumental corrections, ionospheric correction, dry and wet tropospheric corrections, electromagnetic bias correction, ocean and solid Earth tidal corrections, ocean loading correction, pole tide correction and an inverted barometer correction that has to be applied since the altimeter does not cover the global ocean completely. The total measurement accuracy for the TOPEX/Poseidon altimetry-based sea surface height is about 80 mm (95% error) for a single measurement based on one-second along-track averages (Chelton et al., 2001).
The above error estimates concern instantaneous sea surface height measurements. For estimating the mean sea level variations, the procedure consists of simply averaging over the ocean the point-to-point measurements collected by the satellite during a complete orbital cycle (10 days for TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1), accounting for the spatial distribution of the data using an equal area weighting. In effect, during this time interval, the satellite realises an almost complete coverage of the oceanic domain. The 95% error associated with a 10-day mean sea level estimate is approximately 8 mm.
When computing global mean sea level variations through time, proper account of instrumental bias and drifts (including the terrestrial reference frame) is of considerable importance. These effects (e.g., the radiometer drift onboard TOPEX/Poseidon used to correct for the wet tropospheric delay) are of the same order of magnitude as the sea level signal. Studies by Chambers et al. (1998) and Mitchum (1994; 2000) have demonstrated that comparing the altimeter sea level measurements to tide gauge sea level measurements produces the most robust way of correcting for instrumental bias and drifts. This approach uses a network of high-quality tide gauges, well distributed over the ocean domain. Current results indicate that the residual error in the mean sea level variation using the tide gauge calibration is about 0.8 mm yr–1 (a value resulting mainly from the uncertainties in vertical land motion at the tide gauges). The current altimeter-inferred sea level measurements do not include modelling of the geocenter or mitigating the effect resulting from the potential drift of the terrestrial reference frame.
Detailed information about satellite altimetry, uncertainty and applications can be found in Fu and Cazenave (2001).