Articles | Volume 8, issue 1
Research article
06 Jan 2015
Research article |  | 06 Jan 2015

Dual-channel photoacoustic hygrometer for airborne measurements: background, calibration, laboratory and in-flight intercomparison tests

D. Tátrai, Z. Bozóki, H. Smit, C. Rolf, N. Spelten, M. Krämer, A. Filges, C. Gerbig, G. Gulyás, and G. Szabó

Abstract. This paper describes a tunable diode laser-based dual-channel photoacoustic (PA) humidity measuring system primarily designed for aircraft-based environment research. It is calibrated for total pressure and water vapor (WV) volume mixing ratios (VMRs) possible during airborne applications. WV VMR is calculated by using pressure-dependent calibration curves and a cubic spline interpolation method. Coverage of the entire atmospheric humidity concentration range that might be encountered during airborne measurements is facilitated by applying an automated sensitivity mode switching algorithm. The calibrated PA system was validated through laboratory and airborne intercomparisons, which proved that the repeatability, the estimated accuracy and the response time of the system are 0.5 ppmV or 0.5% of the actual reading (whichever value is the greater), 5% of the actual reading within the VMR range of 1–12 000 ppmV and 2 s, respectively. The upper detection limit of the system is theoretically about 85 000 ppmV, limited only by condensation of water vapor on the walls of the 318 K heated PA cells and inlet lines, and was experimentally verified up to 20 000 ppmV. The unique advantage of the presented system is its applicability for simultaneous water vapor and total water volume mixing ratio measurements.

Short summary
Airborne hygrometry is very important in climate research, and the interest in knowing not only water vapor concentration but (cirrus) cloud content as well is increasing. The authors provide a photoacoustic spectroscopy-based dual-channel hygrometer system that can be a good solution for such measurements. The instrument was proven to operate properly from ground level up to the lower stratosphere, giving the possibility even for cirrus cloud studies.