Consistency and structural uncertainty of multi-mission GPS radio occultation records

Steiner, Andrea K.; Ladstädter, Florian; Ao, Chi O.; Gleisner, Hans; Ho, Shu-Peng; Hunt, Doug; Schmidt, Torsten; Foelsche, Ulrich; Kirchengast, Gottfried; Kuo, Ying-Hwa; Lauritsen, Kent B.; Mannucci, Anthony J.; Nielsen, Johannes K.; Schreiner, William; Schwärz, Marc; Sokolovskiy, Sergey; Syndergaard, Stig; Wickert, Jens

Atmospheric climate monitoring requires observations of high quality that conform to the criteria of the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS). Radio occultation (RO) data based on Global Positioning System (GPS) signals are available since 2001 from several satellite missions with global coverage, high accuracy, and high vertical resolution in the troposphere and lower stratosphere. We assess the consistency and long-term stability of multi-satellite RO observations for use as climate data records. As a measure of long-term stability, we quantify the structural uncertainty of RO data products arising from different processing schemes. We analyze atmospheric variables from bending angle to temperature for four RO missions, CHAMP, Formosat-3/COSMIC, GRACE, and Metop, provided by five data centers. The comparisons are based on profile-to-profile differences aggregated to monthly medians. Structural uncertainty in trends is found to be lowest from 8 to 25 km of altitude globally for all inspected RO variables and missions. For temperature, it is < 0.05 K per decade in the global mean and < 0.1 K per decade at all latitudes. Above 25 km, the uncertainty increases for CHAMP, while data from the other missions – based on advanced receivers – are usable to higher altitudes for climate trend studies: dry temperature to 35 km, refractivity to 40 km, and bending angle to 50 km. Larger differences in RO data at high altitudes and latitudes are mainly due to different implementation choices in the retrievals. The intercomparison helped to further enhance the maturity of the RO record and confirms the climate quality of multi-satellite RO observations towards establishing a GCOS climate data record.

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Steiner, Andrea K. / Ladstädter, Florian / Ao, Chi O. / et al: Consistency and structural uncertainty of multi-mission GPS radio occultation records. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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