Investigation of ground-based microwave radiometer calibration techniques at 530 hPa
Abstract. Ground-based microwave radiometers (MWR) are becoming more and more common for remotely sensing the atmospheric temperature and humidity profile as well as path-integrated cloud liquid water content. The calibration accuracy of the state-of-the-art MWR HATPRO-G2 (Humidity And Temperature Profiler – Generation 2) was investigated during the second phase of the Radiative Heating in Underexplored Bands Campaign (RHUBC-II) in northern Chile (5320 m above mean sea level, 530 hPa) conducted by the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) program conducted between August and October 2009. This study assesses the quality of the two frequently used liquid nitrogen and tipping curve calibrations by performing a detailed error propagation study, which exploits the unique atmospheric conditions of RHUBC-II. Both methods are known to have open issues concerning systematic offsets and calibration repeatability. For the tipping curve calibration an uncertainty of ±0.1 to ±0.2 K (K-band) and ±0.6 to ±0.7 K (V-band) is found. The uncertainty in the tipping curve calibration is mainly due to atmospheric inhomogeneities and the assumed air mass correction for the Earth curvature. For the liquid nitrogen calibration the estimated uncertainty of ±0.3 to ±1.6 K is dominated by the uncertainty of the reflectivity of the liquid nitrogen target. A direct comparison between the two calibration techniques shows that for six of the nine channels that can be calibrated with both methods, they agree within the assessed uncertainties. For the other three channels the unexplained discrepancy is below 0.5 K. Systematic offsets, which may cause the disagreement of both methods within their estimated uncertainties, are discussed.