• sounder;
  • calibration;
  • remote sensing;
  • satellite;
  • weather


The first of a new generation of microwave sounders was launched aboard the Suomi-National Polar-Orbiting Partnership satellite in October 2011. The Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS) combines the capabilities and channel sets of three predecessor sounders into a single package to provide information on the atmospheric vertical temperature and moisture profiles that are the most critical observations needed for numerical weather forecast models. Enhancements include size/mass/power approximately one third of the previous total, three new sounding channels, the first space-based, Nyquist-sampled cross-track microwave temperature soundings for improved fusion with infrared soundings, plus improved temperature control and reliability. This paper describes the ATMS characteristics versus its predecessor, the advanced microwave sounding unit (AMSU), and presents the first comprehensive evaluation of key prelaunch and on-orbit performance parameters. Two-year on-orbit performance shows that the ATMS has maintained very stable radiometric sensitivity, in agreement with prelaunch data, meeting requirements for all channels (with margins of ~40% for channels 1–15), and improvements over AMSU-A when processed for equivalent spatial resolution. The radiometric accuracy, determined by analysis from ground test measurements, and using on-orbit instrument temperatures, also shows large margins relative to requirements (specified as <1.0 K for channels 1, 2, and 16–22 and <0.75 K for channels 3–15). A thorough evaluation of the performance of ATMS is especially important for this first proto-flight model unit of what will eventually be a series of ATMS sensors providing operational sounding capability for the U.S. and its international partners well into the next decade.