Articles | Volume 8, issue 8
Research article
19 Aug 2015
Research article |  | 19 Aug 2015

Accuracy of retrieving temperature and humidity profiles by ground-based microwave radiometry in truly complex terrain

G. Massaro, I. Stiperski, B. Pospichal, and M. W. Rotach

Abstract. Within the Innsbruck Box project, a ground-based microwave radiometer (RPG-HATPRO) was operated in the Inn Valley (Austria), in very complex terrain, between September 2012 and May 2013 to obtain temperature and humidity vertical profiles of the full troposphere with a specific focus on the valley boundary layer. In order to assess its performance in a deep alpine valley, the profiles obtained by the radiometer with different retrieval algorithms based on different climatologies are compared to local radiosonde data. A retrieval that is improved with respect to the one provided by the manufacturer, based on better resolved data, shows a significantly smaller root mean square error (RMSE), both for the temperature and humidity profiles. The improvement is particularly substantial at the heights close to the mountaintop level and in the upper troposphere. Lower-level inversions, common in an alpine valley, are resolved to a satisfactory degree. On the other hand, upper-level inversions (above 1200 m) still pose a significant challenge for retrieval. For this purpose, specialized retrieval algorithms were developed by classifying the radiosonde climatologies into specialized categories according to different criteria (seasons, daytime, nighttime) and using additional regressors (e.g., measurements from mountain stations). The training and testing on the radiosonde data for these specialized categories suggests that a classification of profiles that reproduces meaningful physical characteristics can yield improved targeted specialized retrievals. A novel and very promising method of improving the profile retrieval in a mountainous region is adding further information in the retrieval, such as the surface temperature at fixed levels along a topographic slope or from nearby mountaintops.