Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Comparison of precipitable water vapor derived from radiosonde, GPS, and moderate-resolution imaging spectroradiometer measurements

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Zhenhong Li


Full text for this publication is not currently held within this repository. Alternative links are provided below where available.


Atmospheric water vapor is highly variable in both space and time across the Earth, and knowledge of the distribution of water vapor is essential in understanding weather and global climate. In addition, knowledge of the amount of atmospheric water vapor is required for high-precision interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) applications due to its significant impact on microwave signals, which is the principal motivation for this study. In order to assess the performance of different instruments, i.e., radiosondes (RS), Global Positioning System (GPS), and the Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and for measuring precipitable water vapor (PWV), coincident observations collected at the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Southern Great Plains site and at the Herstmonceux site over a 8–11 month period are used for time series intercomparisons. In this study, the Terra MODIS near-infrared water vapor products (Collection 3) were examined. In addition, a first spatial comparison of MODIS PWV and GPS PWV was performed using data covering all of Germany and kindly supplied by the GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam. Time series comparisons of PWV between radiosondes and GPS show that the scale factors of PWV from radiosondes and GPS agreed to 4% with correlation coefficients higher than 0.98 and standard deviations about 1 mm. A significant day-night difference was found for Vaisala RS90 radiosondes in comparison with GPS PWV, with nighttime launches having a scale factor 4% larger, but agreeing overall better. It is also shown that GPS PWV and RS PWV agreed better with each other than with MODIS PWV, and the differences of MODIS PWV relative to GPS or RS were larger than those between GPS PWV and RS PWV. MODIS PWV appeared to overestimate PWV against RS, with scale factors from 1.14 to 1.20 and standard deviations from 1.6 to 2.2 mm. MODIS PWV appeared to overestimate PWV against GPS, with scale factors from 1.07 to 1.14 and standard deviations varying from 0.8 to 1.4 mm in time series. The larger differences relative to MODIS PWV are likely to be caused by uncertainties in the spectroscopic database for the MODIS retrievals, calibration uncertainties in the radiances measured by MODIS, operational differences of the three systems, and different mapping functions adopted in GPS and MODIS PWV retrievals. We derived a linear fit model to calibrate MODIS PWV, and better agreements between calibrated MODIS PWV and GPS PWV in space have been achieved. This indicates that MODIS PWV products should be updated or calibrated using a linear fit model before being applied to correct InSAR measurements. Also, the potential accuracy of standard resolution (resampled) radiosonde data from the UK Met Office and the University of Wyoming has been assessed. It is demonstrated that some caution needs to be exercised when using standard resolution data.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Li Z, Muller J-P, Cross P

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

Year: 2003

Volume: 108

Issue: D20

Print publication date: 27/10/2003

Online publication date: 29/10/2003

ISSN (print): 2169-897X

ISSN (electronic): 2169-8996

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell


DOI: 10.1029/2003JD003372


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric