This paper introduces a recently developed algorithm to retrieve high-resolution wind fields over the ocean surface from spaceborne synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data. The algorithm consists of two parts, the first for determining wind direction and the second for wind speed retrieval. Wind directions are extracted from wind induced streaks e.g. from boundary layer rolls, Langmuir cells, or wind shadowing, which are approximately in line with the mean wind direction. Wind speed is derived from the normalized radar cross section (NRCS) and image geometry of the SAR image, together with the local retrieved wind direction. The application of SAR-wind retrieval in coastal regions is demonstrated using data acquired aboard the European satellites ERS-1 and ERS-2 and the Canadian satellite RADARSAT-1. These data allow to measure wind fields of an area of up to 500 km × 500 km with a resolution of up to 200 m. To improve and validate the set-up of numerical high-resolution models in coastal regions SAR-retrieved wind fields offer an unique opportunity. This is shown by comparisons of wind fields measured by SAR to results of the numerical model REMO, HIRLAM and GESIMA.

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