Articles | Volume 9, issue 8
Research article
24 Aug 2016
Research article |  | 24 Aug 2016

Ground-based lidar and microwave radiometry synergy for high vertical resolution absolute humidity profiling

María Barrera-Verdejo, Susanne Crewell, Ulrich Löhnert, Emiliano Orlandi, and Paolo Di Girolamo

Abstract. Continuous monitoring of atmospheric humidity profiles is important for many applications, e.g., assessment of atmospheric stability and cloud formation. Nowadays there are a wide variety of ground-based sensors for atmospheric humidity profiling. Unfortunately there is no single instrument able to provide a measurement with complete vertical coverage, high vertical and temporal resolution and good performance under all weather conditions, simultaneously. For example, Raman lidar (RL) measurements can provide water vapor with a high vertical resolution, albeit with limited vertical coverage, due to sunlight contamination and the presence of clouds. Microwave radiometers (MWRs) receive water vapor information throughout the troposphere, though their vertical resolution is poor. In this work, we present an MWR and RL system synergy, which aims to overcome the specific sensor limitations. The retrieval algorithm combining these two instruments is an optimal estimation method (OEM), which allows for an uncertainty analysis of the retrieved profiles. The OEM combines measurements and a priori information, taking the uncertainty of both into account. The measurement vector consists of a set of MWR brightness temperatures and RL water vapor profiles. The method is applied to a 2-month field campaign around Jülich (Germany), focusing on clear sky periods. Different experiments are performed to analyze the improvements achieved via the synergy compared to the individual retrievals. When applying the combined retrieval, on average the theoretically determined absolute humidity uncertainty is reduced above the last usable lidar range by a factor of  ∼  2 with respect to the case where only RL measurements are used. The analysis in terms of degrees of freedom per signal reveal that most information is gained above the usable lidar range, especially important during daytime when the lidar vertical coverage is limited. The retrieved profiles are further evaluated using radiosounding and Global Position Satellite (GPS) water vapor measurements. In general, the benefit of the sensor combination is especially strong in regions where Raman lidar data are not available (i.e., blind regions, regions characterized by low signal-to-noise ratio), whereas if both instruments are available, RL dominates the retrieval. In the future, the method will be extended to cloudy conditions, when the impact of the MWR becomes stronger.