Articles | Volume 10, issue 1
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 10, 15–34, 2017
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 10, 15–34, 2017

Research article 03 Jan 2017

Research article | 03 Jan 2017

Open-loop GPS signal tracking at low elevation angles from a ground-based observation site

Georg Beyerle and Florian Zus Georg Beyerle and Florian Zus
  • GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Potsdam, Germany

Abstract. A 1-year data set of ground-based GPS signal observations aiming at geometric elevation angles below +2° is analysed. Within the "GLESER" measurement campaign about 2600 validated setting events were recorded by the "OpenGPS" open-loop tracking receiver at an observation site located at 52.3808° N, 13.0642° E between January and December 2014. The measurements confirm the feasibility of open-loop signal tracking down to geometric elevation angles of −1 to −1.5° extending the corresponding closed-loop tracking range by up to 1°. The study is based on the premise that observations of low-elevation events by a ground-based receiver may serve as test cases for space-based radio occultation measurements, even if the latter proceed at a significantly faster temporal scale. The results support the conclusion that the open-loop Doppler model has negligible influence on the derived carrier frequency profile for strong signal-to-noise density ratios above about 30 dB Hz. At lower signal levels, however, the OpenGPS receiver's dual-channel design, which tracks the same signal using two Doppler models differing by 10 Hz, uncovers a notable bias. The repeat patterns of the GPS orbit traces in terms of azimuth angle reveal characteristic signatures in both signal amplitude and Doppler frequency with respect to the topography close to the observation site. Mean vertical refractivity gradients, extracted from ECMWF meteorological fields, correlate weakly to moderately with observed signal amplitude fluctuations at geometric elevation angles between +1 and +2°. Results from multiple phase screen simulations support the interpretation that these fluctuations are at least partly produced by atmospheric multipath; at negative elevation angles diffraction at the ground surface seems to contribute.

Short summary
Ground-based observations of GPS satellites disappearing below the local horizon are analysed. Starting at +2 degree elevation angle the GPS signals are recorded in open-loop tracking mode down to −1.5 degrees. The open-loop Doppler model has negligible influence on the derived data products for strong signal-to-noise ratios; at lower signal levels, however, a notable bias is uncovered. These results may have implications for the design of future space-based GPS radio occultation missions.