Articles | Volume 5, issue 5
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 5, 1121–1134, 2012
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 5, 1121–1134, 2012

Research article 21 May 2012

Research article | 21 May 2012

Operational profiling of temperature using ground-based microwave radiometry at Payerne: prospects and challenges

U. Löhnert1 and O. Maier2 U. Löhnert and O. Maier
  • 1Institute for Geophysics am Meteorology, University of Cologne, Germany
  • 2Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology MeteoSwiss, Payerne, Switzerland

Abstract. The motivation of this study is to verify theoretical expectations placed on ground-based microwave radiometer (MWR) techniques and to confirm whether they are suitable for supporting key missions of national weather services, such as timely and accurate weather advisories and warnings. We evaluate reliability and accuracy of atmospheric temperature profiles retrieved continuously by the microwave profiler system HATPRO (Humidity And Temperature PROfiler) operated at the aerological station of Payerne (MeteoSwiss) in the time period August 2006–December 2009. Assessment is performed by comparing temperatures from the radiometer against temperature measurements from a radiosonde accounting for a total of 2107 quality-controlled all-season cases.

In the evaluated time period, the MWR delivered reliable temperature profiles in 86% of all-weather conditions on a temporal resolution of 12–13 min. Random differences between MWR and radiosonde are down to 0.5 K in the lower boundary layer and increase to 1.7 K at 4 km height. The differences observed between MWR and radiosonde in the lower boundary layer are similar to the differences observed between the radiosonde and another in-situ sensor located on a close-by 30 m tower. Temperature retrievals from above 4 km contain less than 5% of the total information content of the measurements, which makes clear that this technique is mainly suited for continuous observations in the boundary layer. Systematic temperature differences are also observed throughout the retrieved profile and can account for up to ±0.5 K. These errors are due to offsets in the measurements of the microwave radiances that have been corrected for in data post-processing and lead to nearly bias-free overall temperature retrievals. Different reasons for the radiance offsets are discussed, but cannot be unambiguously determined retrospectively. Monitoring and, if necessary, corrections for radiance offsets as well as a real-time rigorous automated data quality control are mandatory for microwave profiler systems that are designated for operational temperature profiling. In the analysis of a subset of different atmospheric situations, it is shown that lifted inversions and data quality during precipitation present the largest challenges for operational MWR temperature profiling.