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Development of a curved ray tracing method for modeling of phase paths from GPS radio occultation: A two-dimensional study

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Abstract

[1] A two-dimensional curved ray tracer (CRT) is developed to study the propagation path of radio signals across a heterogeneous planetary atmosphere. The method, designed to achieve improvements in both computational efficiency and accuracy over conventional straight-line methods, takes rays' first-order bending into account to better describe curved raypaths in the stratified atmosphere. CRT is then used to simulate the phase path from GPS radio occultation (RO). The merit of the ray tracing approach in GPS RO is explicit consideration of horizontal variation in the atmosphere, which may lead to a sizable error but is disregarded in traditional retrieval schemes. In addition, direct modeling of the phase path takes advantage of simple error characteristics in the measurement. With provision of ionospheric and neutral atmospheric refractive indices, in this effort, rays are traced along the full range of GPS-low Earth orbiting (LEO) radio links just as the measurements are made in real life. Here, ray shooting is employed to realize the observed radio links with controlled accuracy. CRT largely reproduces the very measured characteristics of GPS signals. When compared, the measured and simulated phases show remarkable agreement. The cross validation between CRT and GPS RO has confirmed not only the strength of CRT but also the high accuracy of GPS RO measurements. The primary motivation for this study is enabling effective quality control for GPS RO data, overcoming a complicated error structure in the high-level data. CRT has also shown a great deal of potential for improved utilization of GPS RO data for geophysical research.

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