20 May 2021

20 May 2021

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

Atmospheric Precipitable Water and its Correlation with Clear Sky Infrared Temperature Observations

Vicki Kelsey1,a, Spencer Riley2, and Kenneth Minschwaner2 Vicki Kelsey et al.
  • 1Langmuir Laboratory for Atmospheric Research, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Socorro, NM 87801 USA
  • 2Department of Physics, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Socorro, NM 87801 USA
  • anow at: Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences Program, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Rapid City, SD 57701 USA

Abstract. Total precipitable water (TPW) in the atmosphere is the vertically integrated amount of atmospheric water in all of its phases. TPW is a valuable predictor for weather forecasting, and it is routinely measured using radiosondes, ground-based global positioning systems (GPS), sun photometers, or microwave radiometers. The use of these sophisticated instruments limits the number of TPW measurement sites, which affects the accuracy of forecast models in regards to storm formation, strength, and the potential for precipitation. We have analyzed this relationship for the much drier climate zone found in the Desert Southwest, specifically over Socorro, New Mexico (34° N, 107° W). Daily measurements of the ground and zenith sky temperatures have been made at Socorro for two complete annual cycles using infrared thermal sensors. Radiosonde TPW measurements from National Weather Service stations located in nearby Albuquerque, and Santa Theresa, New Mexico, are input into our dataset and analysed via a newly developed computational tool. Our results show that an exponential relationship between TPW and zenith sky temperature also holds for the Desert Southwest, but with parameters that are different than those obtained for the Gulf Coast. Model simulations can accurately reproduce the observed relationship between TPW and temperature, and the results suggest that half of the signal in temperature is directly related to direct changes in opacity due to changes in TPW, while the other half is due to changes in air temperature that usually accompany changes in TPW.

Vicki Kelsey et al.

Status: open (until 15 Jul 2021)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on amt-2021-130', Anonymous Referee #1, 21 Jun 2021 reply

Vicki Kelsey et al.

Data sets

TPW and Zenith Sky Temperature Data for Socorro, NM Vicki Kelsey, Spencer Riley

Model code and software

Precipitable-Water Model Analysis Tool: Cirrus Spencer Riley

Vicki Kelsey et al.


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Short summary
In the interior western USA there are distances of hundreds of kilometers between weather balloon launch sites for weather forecasting. Satellite coverage can also be sparse or with poor resolution. Using infrared thermometers, clear sky temperatures were collected and compared with data from weather balloons. A correlation between clear sky temperatures and precipitable water measurements from weather balloons was found. This means that citizen scientists can collect data.