Articles | Volume 11, issue 4
Research article
11 Apr 2018
Research article |  | 11 Apr 2018

Retrieval of total water vapour in the Arctic using microwave humidity sounders

Raul Cristian Scarlat, Christian Melsheimer, and Georg Heygster

Abstract. Quantitative retrievals of atmospheric water vapour in the Arctic present numerous challenges because of the particular climate characteristics of this area. Here, we attempt to build upon the work of Melsheimer and Heygster (2008) to retrieve total atmospheric water vapour (TWV) in the Arctic from satellite microwave radiometers. While the above-mentioned algorithm deals primarily with the ice-covered central Arctic, with this work we aim to extend the coverage to partially ice-covered and ice-free areas. By using modelled values for the microwave emissivity of the ice-free sea surface, we develop two sub-algorithms using different sets of channels that deal solely with open-ocean areas. The new algorithm extends the spatial coverage of the retrieval throughout the year but especially in the warmer months when higher TWV values are frequent. The high TWV measurements over both sea-ice and open-water surfaces are, however, connected to larger uncertainties as the retrieval values are close to the instrument saturation limits.

This approach allows us to apply the algorithm to regions where previously no data were available and ensures a more consistent physical analysis of the satellite measurements by taking into account the contribution of the surface emissivity to the measured signal.

Short summary
An obstacle in achieving reliable satellite measurements of atmospheric water vapour in the Arctic is the presence of sea ice. Here we have built on a previous method that achieves consistent atmospheric measurements over sea-ice-covered regions. The main focus was to adapt the method for better coverage in shallow-ice-covered and ice-free areas by accounting for the signal from the open-ocean surface. This approach extends the coverage from the central Arctic to the entire Arctic region.