Articles | Volume 11, issue 9
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 11, 5007–5024, 2018
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 11, 5007–5024, 2018

Research article 04 Sep 2018

Research article | 04 Sep 2018

WIRA-C: a compact 142-GHz-radiometer for continuous middle-atmospheric wind measurements

Jonas Hagen1, Axel Murk1, Rolf Rüfenacht1, Sergey Khaykin2, Alain Hauchecorne2, and Niklaus Kämpfer1 Jonas Hagen et al.
  • 1Institute of Applied Physics, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
  • 2LATMOS-IPSL, Univ. Versailles St.-Quentin, CNRS/INSU, Guyancourt, France

Abstract. Ground-based microwave wind radiometry provides a method to measure horizontal wind speeds at altitudes between 35 and 75 km as has been shown by various previous studies. No other method is capable of continuously delivering wind measurements in this altitude region. As opposed to lidar systems, microwave radiometers operate autonomously and independent of daylight and clouds.

In this paper, we present the WIRA-C (Wind Radiometer for Campaigns) instrument that observes the 142.17504 GHz rotational transition line of ozone with a high spectral resolution using a low noise single side band heterodyne receiver. Because the emitting molecules are drifting with the wind, the line is Doppler shifted. Together with the pressure broadening effect, this allows the retrieval of altitude resolved wind profiles.

The novel WIRA-C instrument represents the newest development in microwave wind radiometry and implements many improvements over its predecessor, the WIRA instrument. The main improvements include the compact structure, lower noise and an advanced retrieval setup. This paper describes the instrument and the data processing with a focus on the retrieval that takes into account a three-dimensional atmosphere and has never been used in ground-based radiometry before. The retrieval yields profiles of horizontal wind speeds with a 12 h time resolution and a vertical resolution of 10 km for zonal and 10 to 15 km for meridional wind speeds. We give an error estimate that accounts for the thermal noise on the measured spectra and additionally estimate systematic errors using Monte Carlo methods.

WIRA-C has been continuously measuring horizontal wind speeds for 1 year at the Maïdo observatory on Réunion (21.4° S, 55.9° E). We present the time series of this campaign and compare our measurements to model data from the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) and coincident measurements of the co-located Rayleigh–Mie Doppler wind lidar. We find a good agreement between our measurements and the ECMWF operational analysis for the time series, where many features are present in both datasets. The wind profiles of the coincident WIRA-C and lidar observations are consistent and agree within their respective uncertainties for the lidar measurements with long integration times.