Articles | Volume 10, issue 8
Research article
11 Aug 2017
Research article |  | 11 Aug 2017

Intercomparison of atmospheric water vapour measurements at a Canadian High Arctic site

Dan Weaver, Kimberly Strong, Matthias Schneider, Penny M. Rowe, Chris Sioris, Kaley A. Walker, Zen Mariani, Taneil Uttal, C. Thomas McElroy, Holger Vömel, Alessio Spassiani, and James R. Drummond

Abstract. Water vapour is a critical component of the Earth system. Techniques to acquire and improve measurements of atmospheric water vapour and its isotopes are under active development. This work presents a detailed intercomparison of water vapour total column measurements taken between 2006 and 2014 at a Canadian High Arctic research site (Eureka, Nunavut). Instruments include radiosondes, sun photometers, a microwave radiometer, and emission and solar absorption Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometers. Close agreement is observed between all combination of datasets, with mean differences  ≤  1.0 kg m−2 and correlation coefficients  ≥  0.98. The one exception in the observed high correlation is the comparison between the microwave radiometer and a radiosonde product, which had a correlation coefficient of 0.92.

A variety of biases affecting Eureka instruments are revealed and discussed. A subset of Eureka radiosonde measurements was processed by the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) Reference Upper Air Network (GRUAN) for this study. Comparisons reveal a small dry bias in the standard radiosonde measurement water vapour total columns of approximately 4 %. A recently produced solar absorption FTIR spectrometer dataset resulting from the MUSICA (MUlti-platform remote Sensing of Isotopologues for investigating the Cycle of Atmospheric water) retrieval technique is shown to offer accurate measurements of water vapour total columns (e.g. average agreement within −5.2 % of GRUAN and −6.5 % of a co-located emission FTIR spectrometer). However, comparisons show a small wet bias of approximately 6 % at the high-latitude Eureka site. In addition, a new dataset derived from Atmospheric Emitted Radiance Interferometer (AERI) measurements is shown to provide accurate water vapour measurements (e.g. average agreement was within 4 % of GRUAN), which usefully enables measurements to be taken during day and night (especially valuable during polar night).

Short summary
We have compared techniques used by several PEARL instruments to measure atmospheric water vapour. No single instrument can comprehensively map the atmosphere. We documented how well these techniques perform and quantified the agreement and biases between them. This work showed that new FTIR datasets at PEARL capture accurate measurements of High Arctic water vapour.