Journal cover Journal topic
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 18, 259-274, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-18-259-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
10 Jan 2018
Comparison of global observations and trends of total precipitable water derived from microwave radiometers and COSMIC radio occultation from 2006 to 2013
Shu-Peng Ho1, Liang Peng1, Carl Mears2, and Richard A. Anthes1 1COSMIC Program Office, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, USA
2Remote Sensing Systems, Santa Rosa, California, USA
Abstract. We compare atmospheric total precipitable water (TPW) derived from the SSM/I (Special Sensor Microwave Imager) and SSMIS (Special Sensor Microwave Imager/Sounder) radiometers and WindSat to collocated TPW estimates derived from COSMIC (Constellation System for Meteorology, Ionosphere, and Climate) radio occultation (RO) under clear and cloudy conditions over the oceans from June 2006 to December 2013. Results show that the mean microwave (MW) radiometer – COSMIC TPW differences range from 0.06 to 0.18 mm for clear skies, from 0.79 to 0.96 mm for cloudy skies, from 0.46 to 0.49 mm for cloudy but non-precipitating conditions, and from 1.64 to 1.88 mm for precipitating conditions. Because RO measurements are not significantly affected by clouds and precipitation, the biases mainly result from MW retrieval uncertainties under cloudy and precipitating conditions. All COSMIC and MW radiometers detect a positive TPW trend over these 8 years. The trend using all COSMIC observations collocated with MW pixels for this data set is 1.79 mm decade−1, with a 95 % confidence interval of (0.96, 2.63), which is in close agreement with the trend estimated by the collocated MW observations (1.78 mm decade−1 with a 95 % confidence interval of 0.94, 2.62). The sample of MW and RO pairs used in this study is highly biased toward middle latitudes (40–60° N and 40–65° S), and thus these trends are not representative of global average trends. However, they are representative of the latitudes of extratropical storm tracks and the trend values are approximately 4 to 6 times the global average trends, which are approximately 0.3 mm decade−1. In addition, the close agreement of these two trends from independent observations, which represent an increase in TPW in our data set of about 6.9 %, are a strong indication of the positive water vapor–temperature feedback on a warming planet in regions where precipitation from extratropical storms is already large.

Citation: Ho, S.-P., Peng, L., Mears, C., and Anthes, R. A.: Comparison of global observations and trends of total precipitable water derived from microwave radiometers and COSMIC radio occultation from 2006 to 2013, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 18, 259-274, https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-18-259-2018, 2018.
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Short summary
In this study, we compare 7 years of atmospheric total precipitable water (TPW) derived from multiple microwave radiometers to collocated TPW estimates derived from COSMIC radio occultation under various atmospheric conditions over the oceans. Results show that these two TPW trends from independent observations are larger than previous estimates and are a strong indication of the positive water vapor–temperature feedback on a warming planet.
In this study, we compare 7 years of atmospheric total precipitable water (TPW) derived from...
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