Articles | Volume 4, issue 9
Research article
28 Sep 2011
Research article |  | 28 Sep 2011

Refractivity and temperature climate records from multiple radio occultation satellites consistent within 0.05%

U. Foelsche, B. Scherllin-Pirscher, F. Ladstädter, A. K. Steiner, and G. Kirchengast

Abstract. Data consistency is an important prerequisite to build radio occultation (RO) climatologies based on a combined record of data from different satellites. The presence of multiple RO receiving satellites in orbit over the same time period allows for testing this consistency. We used RO data from CHAMP (CHAllenging Minisatellite Payload for geoscientific research), six FORMOSAT-3/COSMIC satellites (Formosa Satellite Mission 3/Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate, F3C), and GRACE-A (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment). We show latitude-altitude-resolved results for an example month (October 2007) and the temporal evolution of differences in a climate record of global and monthly means from January 2007 to December 2009. Latitude- and altitude-resolved refractivity and dry temperature climatologies clearly show the influence of different sampling characteristics; monthly mean deviations from the multi-satellite mean over the altitude domain 10 km to 30 km typically reach 0.1% and 0.2 K, respectively. Nevertheless, the 3-yr average deviations (shorter for CHAMP) are less than 0.03% and 0.05 K, respectively. We find no indications for instrument degradation, temporal inhomogeneities in the RO records, or temporal trends in sampling patterns. Based on analysis fields from ECMWF (European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts), we can estimate – and subtract – the sampling error from each monthly climatology. After such subtraction, refractivity deviations are found reduced to <0.05% in almost any month and dry temperature deviations to <0.05 K (<0.02% relative) for almost every satellite and month. 3-yr average deviations are even reduced to <0.01% and <0.01 K (CHAMP: −0.05 K), respectively, establishing an amazing consistency of RO climatologies from different satellites. If applying the same processing scheme for all data, refractivity and dry temperature records from individual satellites with similar bending angle noise can be safely combined up to 30 km altitude (refractivity also up to 35 km) to a consistent single climate record of substantial value for climate monitoring in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere.