A 2-hourly data set of atmospheric precipitable water (PW) has been produced from the zenith path delay (ZPD) derived from ground-based Global Positioning System (GPS) measurements. The PW data are available every 2 hours from 80 to 268 International GNSS Service (IGS, formally International GPS Service) ground stations from 1997 to 2004. The accuracy of the IGS ZPD product is roughly 4 mm. An analysis technique is developed to convert ZPD to PW on a global scale. Special efforts are made on deriving surface pressure (Ps) and water-vapor-weighted atmospheric mean temperature (Tm), which are two key parameters for converting ZPD to PW. Ps is derived from global, 3-hourly surface synoptic observations with temporal, vertical and horizontal adjustments. Tm is calculated from NCEP/NCAR reanalysis with temporal, vertical and horizontal interpolations. The derived Ps and Tm at the GPS location and height have root-mean-square (rms) errors of 1.65 hPa and 1.3 K, respectively. A theoretical error analysis concludes that typical PW error associated with the errors in ZPD, Tm and Ps is on the order of 1.5 mm. The PW data set is compared with radiosonde, microwave radiometer (MWR) and satellite data. The GPS and radiosonde PW comparisons at 98 stations around the globe show a mean difference of 1.08 mm (drier for radiosonde data) with a standard deviation of differences of 2.68 mm, which corresponds to mean percentage difference and standard deviation of 5.5% and 10.6%, respectively. The bias is primarily due to known dry biases in the Vaisala radiosonde data. The RMS difference between GPS and radiosonde/MWR data ranges from 1.2 mm to 2.83 mm. The latitudinal and seasonal variations of PW derived from the GPS data agree well with that from International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP) data if the ISCCP data are sampled only at grid boxes containing GPS stations. The large difference between GPS and ISCCP data in the subtropics is interesting, but is not easily explained. The comparisons did not reveal any systematic bias in GPS PW data and show that a RMS difference of less than 3 mm between GPS-derived PW and other data sets is achieved. The comparison study also illustrates the value of GPS-estimated PW for examining the quality of other data sets, such as those from radiosondes and MWR. Preliminary analysis of this data set shows interesting and significant diurnal variations in PW in four different regions.