Articles | Volume 8, issue 1
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 8, 211–224, 2015
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 8, 211–224, 2015

Research article 12 Jan 2015

Research article | 12 Jan 2015

A two-channel, tunable diode laser-based hygrometer for measurement of water vapor and cirrus cloud ice water content in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere

T. D. Thornberry1,2, A. W. Rollins1,2, R. S. Gao1, L. A. Watts1,2, S. J. Ciciora1, R. J. McLaughlin1,2, and D. W. Fahey1,2 T. D. Thornberry et al.
  • 1NOAA ESRL Chemical Sciences Division, Boulder, Colorado, USA
  • 2Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA

Abstract. The recently developed NOAA Water instrument is a two-channel, closed-path, tunable diode laser absorption spectrometer designed for the measurement of upper troposphere/lower stratosphere water vapor and enhanced total water (vapor + inertially enhanced condensed phase) from the NASA Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system (UAS) or other high-altitude research aircraft. The instrument utilizes wavelength-modulated spectroscopy with second harmonic detection near 2694 nm to achieve high precision with a 79 cm double-pass optical path. The detection cells are operated under constant temperature, pressure, and flow conditions to maintain a constant sensitivity to H2O independent of the ambient sampling environment. An onboard calibration system is used to perform periodic in situ calibrations to verify the stability of the instrument sensitivity during flight. For the water vapor channel, ambient air is sampled perpendicular to the flow past the aircraft in order to reject cloud particles, while the total water channel uses a heated, forward-facing inlet to sample both water vapor and cloud particles. The total water inlet operates subisokinetically, thereby inertially enhancing cloud particle number in the sample flow and affording increased cloud water content sensitivity. The NOAA Water instrument was flown for the first time during the second deployment of the Airborne Tropical TRopopause EXperiment (ATTREX) in February–March 2013 on the NASA Global Hawk UAS. The instrument demonstrated a typical in-flight precision (1 s, 1σ) of better than 0.17 parts per million (ppm, 10−6 mol mol−1), with an overall H2O vapor measurement uncertainty of 5% ± 0.23 ppm. The inertial enhancement for cirrus cloud particle sampling under ATTREX flight conditions ranged from 33 to 48 for ice particles larger than 8 μm in diameter, depending primarily on aircraft altitude. The resulting ice water content detection limit (2σ) was 0.023–0.013 ppm, corresponding to approximately 2 μg m−3, with an estimated overall uncertainty of 20%.

Short summary
The two-channel NOAA Water instrument was developed for in situ measurement of water vapor and cirrus cloud ice water content (IWC) in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere. Tunable diode laser absorption is used to achieve accurate measurements at part per million H2O and low µg/m3 IWC. This paper reports the instrument’s design and performance achieved during its first aircraft deployment on the NASA Global Hawk during the 2013 ATTREX mission in the tropical tropopause layer.