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NODC Standard Product: US Navy Geosat Enhanced JGM-3 Geophysical Data Records (GDR) from the Geodetic and Exact Repeat Missions (NCEI Accession 0053056)

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This accession contains a copy of the NODC CD_ROM product titled 'Enhanced JGM-3 Geophysical Data Records (GDRs) from the Geodetic and Exact Repeat Missions' that was released in June 1997. The original ten CD-ROM set and documentation were compiled by John Lillibridge and Bob Cheney at Laboratory for Satellite Altimetry (LSA), Center for Satellite Applications and Research (STAR), NOAA. Parameters include: time, orbit, latitude/longitude, and sea surface height. Corrections to the data include: sea level, wind and wave data, tides, dry and wet troposphere, ionosphere and height bias. The data are in binary format.

This June 1997 release of satellite altimeter data collected by the U.S. Navy's Geosat mission represents a significant improvement over previous versions. The ten CD ROMs contain geophysical data records which span both the Geodetic Mission (GM: 3/85 - 9/86) and Exact Repeat Mission (ERM: 11/86 - 12/89). The GDRs incorporate a new 10-cm satellite orbit computed by the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center using the JGM-3 gravity model. In addition, the overall accuracy of the data was increased by new geophysical corrections (CSR 3.0 tides; model troposphere from the NCEP/NCAR reanalysis; IRI95 ionosphere; a new sea state bias based on wind, wave and satellite attitude; and corrections for clock drift and timing bias).

In version 2, data have been converted into Climate and Forecast (CF) compliance Network Common Data Form (NetCDF) by Satellite Oceanography Group at the NODC.
  • Cite as: Lillibridge, John; NOAA Center for Satellite Applications and Research (2009). NODC Standard Product: US Navy Geosat Enhanced JGM-3 Geophysical Data Records (GDR) from the Geodetic and Exact Repeat Missions (NCEI Accession 0053056). [indicate subset used]. NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information. Dataset. Accessed [date].
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Distribution Formats
  • Originator data format
Ordering Instructions Contact NCEI for other distribution options and instructions.
Distributor NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information
Dataset Point of Contact NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information
Time Period 1985-03-31 to 1989-12-30
Spatial Bounding Box Coordinates
N: 72
S: -72
E: 180
W: -180
Spatial Coverage Map
General Documentation
Associated Resources
  • Data Records derived from GEOSAT Geodetic Mission (GM) and Exact Repeat Mission (ERM) data from 30 March 1985 to 31 December 1989
    • NCEI Collection
      Navigate directly to the URL for data access and direct download.
  • U.S. Navy Geosat electronic resource: enhanced JGM-3 GDRs from the Geodetic & Exact Repeat Missions / U.S. Dept. of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Oceanographic Data Center, Laboratory for Satellite Altimetry; Silver Spring, Md.: The Laboratory, 1997
  • Parent ID (indicates this dataset is related to other data):
    • gov.noaa.nodc:GEOSAT-GM-ERM
Publication Dates
  • publication: 2009-04-22
  • revision: 2021-10-15
Data Presentation Form Digital table - digital representation of facts or figures systematically displayed, especially in columns
Dataset Progress Status Complete - production of the data has been completed
Historical archive - data has been stored in an offline storage facility
Data Update Frequency As needed
Supplemental Information
From March 1985 until January 1990, the U.S. Navy satellite Geosat generated a new data set with unprecedented spatial and temporal coverage of the global oceans. Designed and built at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Geosat carried a radar altimeter which produced profiles of sea level, wave height, and wind speed along the satellite ground track. Such records have applications in many areas of geodesy, ocean dynamics, and global climate research. Experience with GEOS-3 and Seasat in the 1970s had
demonstrated the enormous potential of altimetry, but neither mission provided such complete long-term global coverage.

1. Geodetic Mission (GM)
Geosat was launched on March 12, 1985, and altimeter data collection began on March 30. The acronym Geosat was derived from geodetic satellite, because its primary mission was to obtain a high-resolution description of the marine geoid up to latitudes of 72 degrees. This goal was achieved during the first 18 months, known as the geodetic mission. During this time the ground track had a near-repeat period of about 23 days (330 revolutions in 23.07 days; average orbital period of 6039.84 sec). The drifting orbit resulted in a dense, global network of sea level profiles separated by about 4 km at the equator. Because of the military significance of this unique
set of observations, the GM data were initially classified but in 1995 were released to NOAA in their entirety for public distribution.

2. Transition to the Exact Repeat Mission (ERM)
At the conclusion of the GM on September 30, 1986, the satellite orbit was changed, and the exact repeat mission began on November 8, 1986. This produced sea level profiles along tracks
that repeated themselves within 1-2 km at intervals of about 17 days (244 revolutions in 17.05 days; average orbital period of 6037.55 sec). The ERM covered 62 complete 17-day cycles before
tape recorder failure in October 1989 terminated the global data set. A limited amount of data was subsequently collected by direct broadcast in the North Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. By January
1990 continued degradation of the altimeter output power finally ended the Geosat mission

3. Upgraded JGM-3 Geophysical Data Records (GDRs)

The JGM-3 GDRs for Geosat represent the culmination of a decade of progress in refining the data set first distributed by NOAA in 1987. The previous release of the ERM data, referred to as the T2 GDRs, is documented by Cheney et al. (1991). The initial full release of the GM data in 1995 was based on the original NSWC orbits. The 1997 release comprises the entirety of the GM + ERM data, with consistent JGM-3 orbits and enhanced geophysical corrections.

Most of the improvement has come in the area of orbit determination. For example, the initial satellite orbits for the ERM contained radial errors of 2-3 m. These were reduced to the 50-cm range in the T2 release in 1991. The present ephemeris, computed by the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, is accurate at the level of 10 cm for most of the mission (the exception being the last year of the ERM mission, see Chapter 5 Precautions).

This remarkable achievement was made possible by (1) the 1993 release of the complete archive of Doppler tracking data and (2) development of the Joint Gravity Model-3 (JGM-3) (Tapley et al., 1996). Derivation of the JGM-3 orbit for Geosat, and the improvements gained from it, are discussed by Williamson and Nerem (1994). In the process of replacing the old NSWC (GM) and T2 (ERM) orbits, a timing bias correction of 5 msec was also applied to the GDRs. The time tags on the altimeter data were increased by a constant 5 msec over the
duration of the mission, and the JGM-3 orbits were interpolated at the
corrected GDR times. This timing bias correction greatly reduces the
'twice-per-rev' orbit errors present in earlier releases of the Geosat data.

In addition to the improved orbits, nearly all of the geophysical
corrections have been upgraded:

- ocean and load tides from the CSR 3.0 model (Eanes and Bettadpur, 1995)
- solid tide from an updated version of the Cartwright and Edden (1973) tide model
- wet and dry troposphere corrections based on the NCEP/NCAR reanalysis model (Kalnay et al., 1996)
- climatological wet troposphere correction based on the NASA NVAP dataset (Randel et al., 1996)
- ionosphere correction from the IRI95 model (Bilitza, 1997)
- wind speed from the Freilich and Challenor (1994) model
- a new sea state bias algorithm dependent on wind speed, wave height, and satellite attitude (Gaspar, Ogor, and Hamdaoui, 1996)
- the Ohio State 1995 mean sea surface (Yi, 1995)


Bilitza, D., International reference ionosphere - status 1995/96. Adv. Space Res.,20, #9, 1751-1754, 1997.
Cartwright, D.E., and A.C. Edden, Corrected tables of tidal harmonics. Geophys. J. Roy. Soc., 23, 253-264, 1973.
Cheney, R.E. et al., The complete Geosat altimeter handbook. NOAA Manual NOS NGS 7,Rockville, MD, 79 pp, 1991.
Eanes, R. and S. Bettadpur, The CSR 3.0 global ocean tide model. Center for Space Research, Univ. of Texas, Tech. Mem. CSR-TM-95-06, Austin, TX, 1995.
Freilich, M.H., and P.G. Challenor, A new approach for determining fully empirical altimeter wind speed model functions. J. Geophys. Res., 99, 25051-25062, 1994.
Gaspar, P., F. Ogor, and M. Hamdaoui, Analysis and estimation of the Geosat sea state bias. Hughes/STX Report No. 96-3056-K1196, Greenbelt, MD, 18 pp, 1996.
Kalnay, E. et al., The NCEP/NCAR 40-year reanalysis project. Bull. AMS, 77 (3), 437-471,1996.
Randel, D.L. et al., A new global water vapor dataset. Bull. AMS, 77 (6), 1233-1246, 1996.
Tapley, B.D. et al., The JGM-3 gravity model. J. Geophys. Res., 101 (B12), 28029-28049, 1996.
Williamson, R.G., and R.S. Nerem, Improved orbit computations for the Geosat mission: benefits for oceanographic and geodynamic studies. EOS Trans. AGU , 75(44) Spring Meet. Suppl.,S155, 1994.
Yi, Y., Determination of gridded mean sea surface from altimeter data of TOPEX, ERS-1, and GEOSAT. Ph.D. Thesis. Dept. Geodetic Science and Surveying, Ohio State Univ., Columbus,OH, 1995.
Purpose This dataset is available to the public for a wide variety of uses including scientific research and analysis.
Use Limitations
  • accessLevel: Public
  • Distribution liability: NOAA and NCEI make no warranty, expressed or implied, regarding these data, nor does the fact of distribution constitute such a warranty. NOAA and NCEI cannot assume liability for any damages caused by any errors or omissions in these data. If appropriate, NCEI can only certify that the data it distributes are an authentic copy of the records that were accepted for inclusion in the NCEI archives.
Dataset Citation
  • Cite as: Lillibridge, John; NOAA Center for Satellite Applications and Research (2009). NODC Standard Product: US Navy Geosat Enhanced JGM-3 Geophysical Data Records (GDR) from the Geodetic and Exact Repeat Missions (NCEI Accession 0053056). [indicate subset used]. NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information. Dataset. Accessed [date].
Cited Authors
Resource Providers
  • oceanography
Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) Science Keywords
Platform keywords NODC PLATFORM NAMES THESAURUS Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) Platform Keywords ICES/SeaDataNet Ship Codes
Instrument keywords NODC INSTRUMENT TYPES THESAURUS Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) Instrument Keywords
Place keywords NODC SEA AREA NAMES THESAURUS Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) Location Keywords
Use Constraints
  • Cite as: Lillibridge, John; NOAA Center for Satellite Applications and Research (2009). NODC Standard Product: US Navy Geosat Enhanced JGM-3 Geophysical Data Records (GDR) from the Geodetic and Exact Repeat Missions (NCEI Accession 0053056). [indicate subset used]. NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information. Dataset. Accessed [date].
Access Constraints
  • Use liability: NOAA and NCEI cannot provide any warranty as to the accuracy, reliability, or completeness of furnished data. Users assume responsibility to determine the usability of these data. The user is responsible for the results of any application of this data for other than its intended purpose.
  • In most cases, electronic downloads of the data are free. However, fees may apply for custom orders, data certifications, copies of analog materials, and data distribution on physical media.
Lineage information for: dataset
Processing Steps
  • 2009-04-22T20:01:53Z - NCEI Accession 0053056 was revised and v2.2 was published.
    Rationale: Updates were received for this dataset. These updates were copied into the data/0-data/ directory of this accession. These updates may provide additional files or replace obsolete files. This version contains the most complete and up-to-date representation of this archival information package. All of the files received prior to this update are available in the preceding version of this accession.
  • 2021-10-15T02:35:24Z - NCEI Accession 0053056 v1.1 was published.
Output Datasets
Lineage information for: repository
Processing Steps
  • 2015-04-22T00:00:00 - NOAA created the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) by merging NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC), and National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC), including the National Coastal Data Development Center (NCDDC), per the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015, Public Law 113-235. NCEI launched publicly on April 22, 2015.
Acquisition Information (collection)
  • satellite sensor - altimeter
Last Modified: 2021-11-10T18:26:55Z
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