Comparing upper tropospheric humidity data from microwave satellite instruments and tropical radiosondes



[1] Atmospheric humidity plays an important role in the Earth's climate. Microwave satellite data provide valuable humidity observations in the upper troposphere with global coverage. In this study, we compare upper tropospheric humidity (UTH) retrieved from the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit and the Microwave Humidity Sounder against radiosonde data measured at four of the central facilities of the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement program. The Atmospheric Radiative Transfer Simulator (ARTS) was used to simulate satellite brightness temperatures from the radiosonde profiles. Strong ice clouds were filtered out, as their influence on microwave measurements leads to incorrect UTH values. Day and night radiosonde profiles were analyzed separately to take into account the radiosonde radiation bias. The comparison between radiosonde and satellite is most meaningful for data in cloud-free, nighttime conditions and with a time difference of less than 2 hr. We found good agreement between the two data sets. The satellite data were slightly moister than the radiosonde data, with a mean difference of 1%–2.3% relative humidity (RH), depending on the radiosonde site. Monthly gridded data were also compared and showed a slightly larger mean difference of up to 3.3% RH, which can be explained by sampling issues.