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Profiling the Atmosphere Using the Airborne GPS Radio Occultation Technique: A Sensitivity Study

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3 Author(s)
Xie, F. ; Dept. of Earth & Atmos. Sci.,, Purdue Univ., West Lafayette, IN ; Haase, J.S. ; Syndergaard, S.

Global Positioning System (GPS) radio occultation (RO) sounding, with its high vertical resolution temperature and humidity profiling capability, is revolutionizing atmospheric science, particularly through assimilation in numerical weather prediction (NWP) models. Currently, the observations are derived from GPS receivers onboard low Earth orbiting satellites. However, with the current number of satellites, it is difficult to provide dense sounding measurements in a specific region within a limited time period. With a GPS receiver onboard an airplane, the GPS RO technique offers such an opportunity while retaining the high vertical resolution sounding capability. The GNSS Instrument System for Multistatic and Occultation Sensing is currently under development for the National Science Foundation's High-performance Instrumented Airborne Platform for Environmental Research (HIAPER) aircraft. This paper presents a sensitivity analysis of the airborne occultation technique that will be used for the HIAPER system. The results demonstrate an anticipated overall accuracy of better than 0.5% for the retrieved refractivity from the surface to about 1 km below the airplane, where the expected airplane velocity errors of up to 5 mm/s limit the accuracy. The effects on the retrievals due to horizontal variations in atmospheric refractivity are significant, and retrieval errors may reach several percent inside frontal systems when the front is perpendicular to the ray paths and within 200 km of the tangent point. In general, the airborne GPS RO system provides a promising new data source for NWP and targeted observational studies.

Published in:

Geoscience and Remote Sensing, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:46 ,  Issue: 11 )