Volume 82 (2004) Issue 1B Pages 507-531
In this paper, we describe the GPS radio occultation (RO) inversion process currently used at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) COSMIC (Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate) Data Analysis and Archive Center (CDAAC). We then evaluate the accuracy of RO refractivity soundings of the CHAMP (CHAllenging Minisatellite Payload) and SACC (Satellite de Aplicaciones Cientificas-C) missions processed by CDAAC software, using data primarily from the month of December 2001. Our results show that RO soundings have the highest accuracy from about 5 km to 25 km. In this region of the atmosphere, the observational errors (which include both measurement and representativeness errors) are generally in the range of 0.3% to 0.5% in refractivity. The observational errors in the tropical lower troposphere increase toward the surface, and reach ∼3% in the bottom few kilometers of the atmosphere. The RO observational errors also increase above 25 km, particularly over the higher latitudes of the winter hemisphere. These error estimates are, in general, larger than earlier theoretical predictions. The larger observational errors in the lower tropical troposphere are attributed to the complicated structure of humidity, superrefraction and receiver tracking errors. The larger errors above 25 km are related to observational noise (mainly, uncalibrated ionospheric effects) and the use of ancillary data for noise reduction through an optimization procedure. We demonstrate that RO errors above 25 km can be substantially reduced by selecting only low-noise occultations.
Our results show that RO soundings have smaller observational errors of refractivity than radiosondes when compared to analyses and short-term forecasts, even in the tropical lower troposphere. This difference is most likely related to the larger representativeness errors associated with the radiosonde, which provides in situ (point) measurements. The RO observational errors are found to be comparable with or smaller than 12-hour forecast errors of the NCEP (National Centers for Environmental Prediction) Aviation (AVN) model, except in the tropical lower troposphere below 3 km. This suggests that RO observations will improve global weather analysis and prediction. It is anticipated that with the use of an advanced signal tracking technique (open-loop tracking) in future missions, such as COSMIC, the accuracy of RO soundings can be further improved.