Ocean Wave Measurement Using GPS Buoys

G. Joodaki 1 , H. Nahavandchi 1 ,  and K. Cheng 2
  • 1 Division of Geomatics, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, N-7491 Trondheim, Norway
  • 2 Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, National Chung Cheng University, 168 University Road, Minhsiung Township, Chiayi 62102, Taiwan


The observation of ocean wave parameters is necessary to improve forecasts of ocean wave conditions. In this paper, we investigate the viability of using a single GPS receiver to measure ocean-surface waves, and present a method to enhance the accuracy of the estimated wave parameters. The application of high-pass filtering to GPS data in conjunction with directional wave spectral theory is a core concept in this article. Laboratory experiments were conducted to test the viability and accuracy measurements of wave parameters made by a single GPS receiver buoy. These tests identified an error of less than 1% for the rotational arm measurement (wave height) and an error of 1% in verifications of the wave direction and wave period, and showed a 0.488 s bias; this is sufficiently accurate for many specific purposes. These results are based on the best cut-off frequency value derived in this study. A moored-sea GPS buoy on the Taiwanese coast was used to estimate the GPS-derived wave parameters. Our results indicate that data from a single GPS receiver, processed with the presented method to reduce the error of the estimated parameters, can provide measurements of ocean surface wave to reasonable accuracy.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Bender L. C., Howden S. D., Dodd D. and Guinasso N. L., 2010, Wave Heights during Hurrincane Katrina: An Evaluation of PPP and PPK Measurements of the Vertical Displacement of the GPS Antenna, J. Atmos. Oceanic Tech., 27, 1760-1768.

  • Cheng K. C., Kuo C. Y., Tseng H. Z., Yi Y. and Shum C. K., 2010, Lake surface height calibration of Jason-1 and Jason-2 over the Great Lakes, Mar. Geod., 33 (S1), 186-203.

  • Colbert D., 2010, Field Evaluation of Ocean Wave Measurements with GPS Buoy, NAVAL Postgraduate School.

  • De Vries J. J., Waldron J. and Cunningham V., 2003, Field tests of the new Datawell DWR-G GPS wave buoy, Sea Technol., 44, 50-55.

  • Doong D. J., Lee B. C. and Kao C. C., 2011, Wave Measurements Using GPS Velocity Signals, Sensors, 11, 1043-1058.

  • Hofmann-Wellenhof B., Lichtenegger H. and Walse E., 2007, GNSS- Global Navigation Satellite Systems, GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and more, SpringerWienNewYork.

  • Hou H. S., 1998, Study of Shelf Waves vs. Sand drifts in NW coast of Taiwan, Proceeding of the international Conference on Coastal Engineering, No. 21, 1152- 1166.

  • Hou D., Hamada M., Yoo Y. and Kouguchi N., 2006, Evaluation Test Result on Wave Direction Measurement Using GPS Buoy, Proceeding of the Ocean’s 06 Asia Pacific IEEE.

  • Huang M. C. and Chen J. Y., 1998, Wave Direction Analysis from Data Buoys, Ocean Eng., Vol. 25, No. 8, 621-637.

  • International Association of Hydraulics Research (IAHR), 1986, List of sea parameters.

  • Iwanaka Y., Kasai T., Murayama T., Harigae M., Yamaguchi I., Nakanishi H., Suko H. and Igawa H., 2005, Abreast of the waves: Moored-sea sensor to measure height and direction, GPS World. 2005, 16, 16-27.

  • Jeans G., Bellamy I., de Varies J. J. and van Weer P., 2003, Sea Trial of the New Datawell GPS Directional Waverider. Fugro GEOS Ltd., Swindon, UK Current Measurement Technology, Proceeding of the IEEE/OES Seventh Working Conference, 145-147.

  • Krogstad H., Barstow S., Aasen S. and Rodriguez I., 1999, some recent development in wave buoys measurement technology, Coast Eng., 37, 309-329.

  • Kuusniemi H., 2005, User-level reliability and quality monitoring in satellite-based personal navigation. PhD dissertation, Institute of Digital and Computer Systems, Tampere University of Technology, Finland.

  • Liu Z. and Frigaard P., 1999, GENERATION AND ANALYSIS OF RANDOM WAVES, Aalborg University.

  • Longuet-Higgins M. S., Cartwright D. E. and Smith N. D., 1963, Observations of the directional spectrum of sea waves using the motions of a floating buoy, Ocean Wave Spectra., 111- 136.

  • Nagai T., Shimizu K., Sasaki M. and Murakami A., 2008, Characteristics of the Observed Offshore Wave Data by the GPS Buoys, Proceeding of the Eighteenth International Offshore and Polar Engineering Conference.

  • Van der Burgt C., 1994, Permanent International Association of Navigation Congresses (PIANC), Marine Pollution Bulletin,Vol. 29, Nos 6-12, pp. 398-400.


Journal + Issues

Journal of Geodetic Science is a peer-reviewed, electronic-only journal that publishes original, high-quality research on topics broadly related to Geodesy. The journal focuses on theoretical and application papers.