10 Mar 2023
 | 10 Mar 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal AMT.

GNSS radio occultation excess phase processing for climate applications including uncertainty estimation

Josef Innerkofler, Gottfried Kirchengast, Marc Schwärz, Christian Marquardt, and Yago Andres

Abstract. Earth observation from space provides a highly valuable basis for atmospheric and climate science, in particular also through climate benchmark data from suitable remote sensing techniques. Measurements by Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) radio occultation (RO) qualify to produce such benchmark data records as they globally provide accurate and long-term stable datasets for essential climate variables (ECVs) such as temperature. This requires a rigorous processing from the raw RO measurements to ECVs, with narrow uncertainties. In order to fully exploit this potential, Wegener Center’s Reference Occultation Processing System (rOPS) Level 1a (L1a) processing subsystem includes uncertainty estimation in both precise orbit determination (POD) and excess phase profile derivation.

Here we introduce the new rOPS L1a excess phase processing, the first step in the RO profiles retrieval down to atmospheric profiles, which extracts the atmospheric excess phase from raw SI-traceable RO measurements. This excess phase processing, for itself algorithmically concise, includes integrated quality control and uncertainty estimation, which requires a complex framework of various subsystems that we first introduce before describing the implementation of the core algorithms. The quality control and uncertainty estimation, computed per RO event, are supported by reliable forward-modeled excess phase profiles based on the POD orbit arcs and collocated short-range forecast profiles of the European Reanalysis ERA5. The quality control removes or alternatively flags excess phase profiles of insufficient or degraded quality. The uncertainty estimation accounts both for relevant random and systematic uncertainty components and the resulting (total) uncertainty profiles serve as starting point for the subsequent uncertainty propagation through the retrieval processing chain down to the atmospheric ECV profiles.

We also evaluated the quality and reliability of the resulting excess phase profiles based on Metop-A/B/C RO datasets for three 3-month periods in 2008, 2013, and 2020 by way of a sensitivity analysis for three representative atmospheric layers (tropo-, strato-, mesosphere), investigating consistency with ERA5-derived profiles, influences of different orbit and clock inputs and consistency across the different Metop satellites. These consistencies range from centimeter to submillimeter levels, indicating that the new processing can provide highly accurate and robust excess phase profiles. Furthermore, cross-validation and inter-comparison with excess phase data from the established data providers EUMETSAT and UCAR revealed subtle discrepancies but overall very close agreement, with larger differences against UCAR in the boundary layer. The new rOPS L1a processing can hence be considered capable to produce reliable long-term data records including uncertainty estimation for the benefit of climate applications.

Josef Innerkofler et al.

Status: open (until 26 Apr 2023)

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Josef Innerkofler et al.

Josef Innerkofler et al.


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Short summary
Atmosphere remote-sensing using GNSS radio occultation provides a highly valuable basis for atmospheric and climate science. For highest quality demands Wegener Center set up a rigorous system for processing the low level measurement data. This excess phase processing setup includes integrated quality control and uncertainty estimation. It was successfully evaluated and cross-validated ensuring the capability to produce reliable long-term data records for climate applications.