Validation of the Harvard Lyman-α in situ water vapor instrument: Implications for the mechanisms that control stratospheric water vapor



[1] Building on previously published details of the laboratory calibrations of the Harvard Lyman-α photofragment fluorescence hygrometer (HWV) on the NASA ER-2 and WB-57 aircraft, we describe here the validation process for HWV, which includes laboratory calibrations and intercomparisons with other Harvard water vapor instruments at water vapor mixing ratios from 0 to 10 ppmv, followed by in-flight intercomparisons with the same Harvard hygrometers. The observed agreement exhibited in the laboratory and during intercomparisons helps corroborate the accuracy of HWV. In light of the validated accuracy of HWV, we present and evaluate a series of intercomparisons with satellite and balloon borne water vapor instruments made from the upper troposphere to the lower stratosphere in the tropics and midlatitudes. Whether on the NASA ER-2 or WB-57 aircraft, HWV has consistently measured about 1–1.5 ppmv higher than the balloon-borne NOAA/ESRL/GMD frost point hygrometer (CMDL), the NOAA Cryogenic Frost point Hygrometer (CFH), and the Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) on the Aura satellite in regions of the atmosphere where water vapor is <10 ppmv. Comparisons in the tropics with the Halogen Occultation Experiment (HALOE) on the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite show large variable differences near the tropopause that converge to ∼10% above 460 K, with HWV higher. Results we show from the Aqua Validation and Intercomparison Experiment (AquaVIT) at the AIDA chamber in Karlsruhe do not reflect the observed in-flight differences. We illustrate that the interpretation of the results of comparisons between modeled and measured representations of the seasonal cycle of water entering the lower tropical stratosphere is dictated by which data set is used.