06 May 2021

06 May 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal AMT.

Spaceborne differential absorption radar water vapor retrieval capabilities in tropical and subtropical boundary layer cloud regimes

Richard Roy, Matthew Lebsock, and Marcin Kurowski Richard Roy et al.
  • Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA

Abstract. Differential absorption radar (DAR) near the 183 GHz water vapor absorption line is an emerging measurement technique for humidity profiling inside of clouds and precipitation with high vertical resolution, as well as for measuring integrated water vapor (IWV) in clear air regions. For radar transmit frequencies on the water line flank away from the highly attenuating line center, the DAR system becomes most sensitive to water vapor in the planetary boundary layer (PBL), which is a region of the atmosphere that is poorly resolved in the vertical by existing spaceborne humidity and temperature profiling instruments. In this work, we present a high-fidelity, end-to-end simulation framework for notional spaceborne DAR instruments that feature realistically achievable radar performance metrics, and apply this simulator to assess DAR's PBL humidity observation capabilities. Both the assumed instrument parameters and radar retrieval algorithm leverage recent technology and algorithm development for an existing airborne DAR instrument. To showcase the capabilities of DAR for humidity observations in a variety of relevant PBL settings, we implement the instrument simulator in the context of large eddy simulations (LES) of 5 different cloud regimes throughout the trade-wind subtropical-to-tropical cloud transition. Three distinct DAR humidity observations are investigated: IWV between the top of the atmosphere and the first detected cloud bin or Earth's surface; in-cloud water vapor profiles with 200 meter vertical resolution; and IWV between the last detected cloud bin and the Earth's surface, which can provide a precise measurement of the sub-cloud humidity. We provide a thorough assessment of the systematic and random errors for all 3 measurement products for each LES case, and analyze the humidity precision scaling with along-track measurement integration. While retrieval performance depends greatly on the specific cloud regime, we find generally that for a radar with cross-track scanning capability, in-cloud profiles with 200 m vertical resolution and 10–20 % uncertainty can be retrieved for horizontal integration distances of 100–200 km. Furthermore, column IWV can be retrieved with 10 % uncertainty for 10–20 km of horizontal integration. Finally, we provide some example science applications of the simulated DAR observations, including estimating near-surface relative humidity using the cloud-to-surface column IWV, and inferring in-cloud temperature profiles from the DAR water vapor profiles by assuming a fully saturated environment.

Richard Roy et al.

Status: open (until 01 Jul 2021)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on amt-2021-111', Anonymous Referee #1, 09 Jun 2021 reply
  • RC2: 'Reviewer 2 comment', Anonymous Referee #2, 16 Jun 2021 reply

Richard Roy et al.

Richard Roy et al.


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Short summary
This study describes the potential capabilities of a hypothetical spaceborne radar to observe water vapor within clouds.