Evaluating tropospheric humidity from GPS radio occultation, radiosonde, and AIRS from high-resolution time series

Rieckh, Therese; Anthes, Richard; Randel, William; Ho, Shu-Peng; Foelsche, Ulrich

While water vapor is the most important tropospheric greenhouse gas, it is also highly variable in both space and time, and water vapor concentrations range over 3 orders of magnitude in the troposphere. These properties challenge all observing systems to accurately measure and resolve the vertical structure and variability of tropospheric humidity. In this study we characterize the humidity measurements of various observing techniques, including four separate Global Positioning System (GPS) radio occultation (RO) humidity retrievals (University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) direct, UCAR one-dimensional variational retrieval (1D-Var), Wegener Center for Climate and Global Change (WEGC) 1D-Var, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) direct), radiosonde, and Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) data. Furthermore, we evaluate how well the ERA-Interim reanalysis and NCEP Global Forecast System (GFS) model perform in analyzing water vapor at different levels. To investigate detailed vertical structure, we analyzed time–height cross sections over four radiosonde stations in the tropical and subtropical western Pacific for the year 2007. We found that the accuracy of RO humidity is comparable to or better than both radiosonde and AIRS humidity over 800 to 400 hPa, as well as below 800 hPa if super-refraction is absent. The various RO retrievals of specific humidity agree within 20 % in the 1000–400 hPa layer, and differences are most pronounced above 600 hPa.

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Rieckh, Therese / Anthes, Richard / Randel, William / et al: Evaluating tropospheric humidity from GPS radio occultation, radiosonde, and AIRS from high-resolution time series. 2018. Copernicus Publications.

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