Retrieval of water vapor using ground-based observations from a prototype ATOMMS active centimeter- and millimeter-wavelength occultation instrument

Dale M Ward, E. Robert Kursinski, Angel C. Otarola, Michael Stovern, Josh McGhee, Abe Young, Jared Hainsworth, Jeff Hagen, William Sisk, Heather Reed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


A fundamental goal of satellite weather and climate observations is profiling the atmosphere with in situ-like precision and resolution with absolute accuracy and unbiased, all-weather, global coverage. While GPS radio occultation (RO) has perhaps come closest in terms of profiling the gas state from orbit, it does not provide sufficient information to simultaneously profile water vapor and temperature. We have been developing the Active Temperature, Ozone and Moisture Microwave Spectrometer (ATOMMS) RO system that probes the 22 and 183 GHz water vapor absorption lines to simultaneously profile temperature and water vapor from the lower troposphere to the mesopause. Using an ATOMMS instrument prototype between two mountaintops, we have demonstrated its ability to penetrate through water vapor, clouds and rain up to optical depths of 17 (7 orders of magnitude reduction in signal power) and still isolate the vapor absorption line spectrum to retrieve water vapor with a random uncertainty of less than 1 %. This demonstration represents a key step toward an orbiting ATOMMS system for weather, climate and constraining processes. ATOMMS water vapor retrievals from orbit will not be biased by climatological or first-guess constraints and will be capable of capturing nearly the full range of variability through the atmosphere and around the globe, in both clear and cloudy conditions, and will therefore greatly improve our understanding and analysis of water vapor. This information can be used to improve weather and climate models through constraints on and refinement of processes affecting and affected by water vapor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1955-1977
Number of pages23
JournalAtmospheric Measurement Techniques
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 27 2019


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science

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