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Detection of calibration drifts in spaceborne microwave radiometers using a vicarious cold reference

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1 Author(s)
C. S. Ruf ; Dept. of Electr. Eng., Pennsylvania State Univ., University Park, PA, USA

The coldest possible brightness temperatures observed by a downward-looking microwave radiometer from space are often produced by calm oceans under cloud-free skies and very low humidity. This set of conditions tends to occur with sufficient regularity that an orbiting radiometer will accumulate a useful number of observations within a period of a few days to weeks. Histograms of the radiometer's coldest measurements provide an anchor point against which very small drifts in absolute calibration can be detected. This technique is applied to the TOPEX microwave radiometer (TMR), and a statistically significant drift of several tenths of a Kelvin per year is clearly detected in one of the channels. TMR housekeeping calibration data indicates a likely cause for the drift, as small changes in the isolation of latching ferrite circulators that are used in the onboard calibration-switch assembly. This method can easily be adapted to other microwave radiometers, especially imagers operating at frequencies in the atmospheric windows. In addition to detecting long-term instrument drifts with high precision, the method also provides a means for cross-calibrating different instruments. The cold reference provides a common tie point, even between sensors operating at different polarizations and/or incidence angles

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing  (Volume:38 ,  Issue: 1 )