Relative humidity over Antarctica from radiosondes, satellites, and a general circulation model



[1] Radiosonde measurements are used to validate measurements of relative humidity (RH) over Antarctica from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) satellite instrument. Radiosonde observations are corrected for most known biases but still have a solar heating dry bias of up to 8% relative to other instruments. AIRS reproduces the observations of temperature and relative humidity with good fidelity. There is a ∼20% moist bias to the data in the upper troposphere relative to radiosonde measurements, but it is within the standard deviation of the measurements. Probability distribution functions of RH from radiosondes and AIRS are similar, suggesting that variability over Antarctica is well reproduced by the satellite. AIRS data are also compared to simulations from the Community Atmosphere Model version 3 (CAM3) and are found to be significantly moister than the model, although the model does not allow supersaturation with respect to ice or liquid water. A climatology from AIRS indicates that it has a repeatable annual cycle over Antarctica. Supersaturation with respect to ice is very common over the continent, particularly in winter, where it might occur almost half the time in the troposphere. This may affect the quantity and isotopic composition of ice over Antarctica.